Office of Jani Hitchen, Pierce County Council, District 6 announcement.
Whether you got 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 talking about and looking at this model for over 16 months and set aside about $23 million should a clear pathway be found to make this work in our county.
The Pierce County Microhome Village would provide a sense of community, on-site social services, skills training, and ways to give back to the community. One of the things that makes this very different is the wrap-around services and the timing. Many of our shelters only have services available in the evening, specific days of the week or certain times of year. This will bring these neighbors into a community, allowing them space and time to heal, and figure out their next steps. For some, this might be a couple of months. For others, it could be many years.
I truly think that this model could impact the lives of hundreds in our community. While I still have several significant questions about the proposal, I wanted to share a little about it so you could do some learning and if you have questions or ideas, please reach out.
Housing Action Strategy
In November of 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 got back was daunting and drove our work around creating some action plans to address the lack of housing at all income levels. You can read the full report here: Pierce County Housing Action Strategy.
This November, we will be considering a Housing Action Strategy Plan. Some of the key take-aways are the sheer number of units needed to meet the demand for those already living here and looking into the future. In addition, the number of units needed to house those that make 80% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI).
From my perspective, our county and our cities have allowed for single family homes to be the main type of housing stock in our county for a very long time. Part of that is a very American perspective of home ownership being a sign of success. However, as we run out of land that can easily and reasonably be developed, we need to look at density. I firmly believe that we must now make intentional investments in affordable housing, or we will just continue to see a growing number of unhoused neighbors. Additionally, I believe that we must do this work closer to our urban centers, and where we have access to supports like social services, infrastructure, hospitals, and public transit.
We have a growing population that includes those that are aging, active duty military, and a high number of people that do not make 100% AMI (which is around $76,000 a year). This means we need to be building housing at a significant rate, around 2,300 units per year. When I say unit, this could be a single-family home. It could also be a duplex (2 units), a strip of condos (6-10 units) or an apartment complex (15-300 units). We need them all, and we need them for those at all levels of income and physical abilities.
I bring these two items up because they are linked. There are hundreds of reasons why someone will end up unhoused and we have limited pathways in our county to access shelter with a goal to get the individual or family back into a home. But we do have programs, many that work really well. We have vouchers to get people into stable housing that they can call their own. But we do not have enough properties available. So as the demand for housing goes up and the number of units stays the same, more and more people are pushed out of housing due to costs!
The Housing Action Strategy Plan is scheduled to be heard during the Human Services Committee meeting on November 1st at 9:30 a.m. If you are interested in listening in, or following up, feel free to follow along or be part of the process and comment publicly or in writing.