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'We have a crisis on our hands': Land in Tacoma will be developed into mixed-income housing

The land is also authorized to be used as a temporary shelter site.

TACOMA, Wash. — Pierce County Council approved a deal on Tuesday to sell 2.9 acres of land along Pacific Avenue to the city of Tacoma.

The land is meant to be used for residential development, but the sale comes with key requirement: at least two-thirds of the units developed will be set aside for those with a household income that doesn’t go above 80% of the area median income.

This comes out to a yearly income of $57,750 a year for a three-person household.

Pierce County Council Chairperson Derek Young said the sale falls in line with the county’s larger goal of providing desperately needed housing for its residents and using what’s already available to meet that goal.  

“The idea is to repurpose these properties for affordable housing projects or mixed-income projects or even mixed-income and mixed-use,” Young says.

Kimber Starr of the Tacoma Community Redevelopment Authority Board said this is needed for Tacoma because the city is already far behind where it needs to be.

“We are 20 years behind the number of units that we need to serve the populations that we now have,” Starr said. “We’re not going to get there by just serving one or two, serving here or there, we need out-of-the-box solutions and we need to use all of the tools in the toolbox to combat this crisis.”

Starr said this approach may also address a systematic flaw in Tacoma’s housing situation and this project may help create a safety net for Tacoma’s vulnerable before the bottom falls out.

“When you’re not able to buy something, you rent down, and that means there’s a price point that’s only available to certain people within a certain income, so then they have to rent down,” she explained. “So what ends up happening is if enough people are renting down, the people at the bottom get pushed out into the streets.”

The sale also authorizes the property to be used as a site for temporary shelter, and the authorization will be in effect until December 31, 2023.

Young said the move is critical to addressing the county’s immediate need for housing.

“The reality is we have a crisis on our hands,” Young declared. “We need to get as many people into some sort of safe shelter, safe housing as possible, as quickly as we can. Living on the street simply is not safe for the people who are unhoused, and it creates problems for everyone else.”