Pierce County Microhome Village – The Suburban Times
Office of Jani Hitchen, Pierce County Council, District 6 announcement.
Whether you received an email from Executive Dammeier, read something in the Tacoma News Tribune, or spotted a post on Facebook, you might have seen something about a large homeless village being proposed for our county by the executive. As a council, we have been discussing and reviewing this model for over 16 months and have set aside approximately $23 million if a clear path is found to make it work in our county.
The Pierce County Tiny Home Village would provide a sense of community, on-site social services, job training and ways to give back to the community. One of the things that makes this very different is wraparound services and timing. Many of our shelters only offer services in the evening, on certain days of the week or at certain times of the year. It will bring those neighbors into a community, giving them space and time to heal and figure out their next steps. For some, it may take a few months. For others, it may take several years.
I really think this model could impact the lives of hundreds of people in our community. While I still have several important questions about the proposal, I wanted to share a few so you can learn and if you have any questions or ideas, please get in touch.
Housing Action Strategy
In November 2021, our council contracted with BERK Consulting to review the housing stock in Pierce County and what is needed for our growing populations. The report we received was discouraging and guided our work toward creating action plans to address the housing shortage at all income levels. You can read the full report here: Pierce County Housing Action Strategy.
In November, we will be looking at a strategic action plan for housing. Some of the key takeaways are the sheer number of units needed to meet the demand of those already living here and looking to the future. Additionally, the number of units needed to house those earning 80% or less of the area median income (AMI).
From my perspective, our county and our cities have allowed single family homes to be the primary type of housing stock in our county for a very long time. Part of that is a very American perspective that home ownership is a sign of success. However, since we lack land that can easily and reasonably be developed, we need to look at density. I strongly believe that we must now make intentional investments in affordable housing, or we will simply continue to see growing numbers of homeless neighbors. Additionally, I believe we need to do this work closer to our urban centers and where we have access to supports such as social services, infrastructure, hospitals and public transit.
We have a growing population that includes aging people, active duty military, and a high number of people who don’t earn 100% MAI (which is about $76,000 a year). This means that we have to build housing at a significant rate, around 2,300 units per year. When I say unit, it could be a single family home. It can also be a duplex (2 units), a strip of condos (6-10 units) or an apartment complex (15-300 units). We all need it, and we need it for those of all income levels and physical abilities.
I raise these two elements because they are linked. There are hundreds of reasons someone will end up homeless and we have limited pathways in our county to access shelter in an effort to get the individual or family back to a home. But we have programs, many of which work very well. We have vouchers to place people in stable housing that they can call their own. But we don’t have enough properties available. So, as the demand for housing increases and the number of units stays the same, more and more people are being evicted from housing due to cost!
The Strategic Housing Action Plan must be heard during the meeting of the social services committee on November 1 at 9:30 a.m.. If you are interested in listening or following, feel free to follow or be part of the process and comment publicly or in writing.