Leaders in Tacoma fear rising rents in the South Sound are leaving some families desperately searching for an affordable place to stay. The booming economy only makes the competition tougher for low-income families.
Also, as more people look for government assistance to help pay the rent, people are also waiting longer to use Section 8 housing vouchers.
“Our voucher families, in general, don’t compete well with better rental or credit histories,” said Director of the Tacoma Housing Authority Michael Mirra.
Longtime Tacoma landlord Tom Glenn says he started renting to people on Section 8 decades ago.
“The fact that the person is on Section 8 isn’t a character deficiency; it’s a maybe a wage deficiency,” said Tom Glenn, a longtime Tacoma landlord.
Glenn said anyone with any background can destroy an apartment, but the issue is about who can afford to pay for the damages.
“I’ve had section 8 tenants that completely destroy an apartment, but if I listened to my guts, I wouldn’t have rented to them. And it isn’t because they’re Section 8; it’s because they are really poor tenants,” said Glenn. “For the working person tenant, they have some resources and I can come to them and say you need to pay me for the damages you incurred. For somebody on Section 8, you can’t get blood from a turnip. They have nothing.”
On Tuesday, Tacoma City Council considered a resolution to create a special fund, $50,000, to start. Part of that would be a signing bonus to landlords as an incentive to hire Section 8.
Some of that money would also create a damage fund for landlords. Other resources would go to help tenants with security deposits and rental fees.
“I think it would be wonderful,” said Glenn, who feels it would make it one less thing to worry about when tenants move out.
For Mirra, he hopes the resolution will provide help for families struggling to keep up with the higher cost of living that comes with a booming economy
“We’re starting to resemble other West Coast cities. We can look at them and see our future. We feel a mixture of excitement about Tacoma’s blossoming economic prospects but worry it won’t be a shared prosperity,” he said.