Tacoma City Council votes to require affordable housing in mall-area neighborhood

The Tacoma City Council voted Tuesday to require developers to include affordable homes in developments around the Tacoma Mall neighborhood --the first rule of its kind in the city. (Photo: KOMO News)

TACOMA, Wash. - A neighborhood in Tacoma could see new mandatory affordable homes as families across the region grapple with the cost of housing. It's a move, years in the making and some Tacoma City Council members are calling it historic.

They voted to require developers to include affordable homes in developments around the Tacoma Mall neighborhood --the first rule of its kind in the city.

As Tacoma continues to grow and re-develop, city leaders wanted to make sure families like Donna Seay aren't pushed out of their communities.

Seay was recently displaced from the Tiki Apartments, leaving her scrambling to find a place she could afford.

KOMO News covered the tenants' fight after they were initially evicted from the Tiki Apartments. The city ultimately got involved and the tenants were granted a two-month reprieve.

But the Tiki Apartments battle raised bigger concerns over access to affordable housing in the city.

“It's a crisis out here and people want to complain about people living on the street that are homeless, well, give them some housing,” said Seay. “We all deserve to have safe living environments and its sad how money and greed have become more important than human beings."

Under the new initiative passed Tuesday, any multi- family development in the Tacoma Mall area with more than 15 units has to set aside 10 percent for anyone making half of Tacoma's median income—or $26,000.

Tenant rights activists rallying before the vote said it's a bold first step, but they'd like to see the initiative expanded throughout the entire city and more units set aside for affordable housing.

“The pressure is still on for us to encourage then to do even more and faster,” said Amy Power with Tenants Union of Washington. “It’s an emergency, it’s happening every day and people are dying on the streets."

“People like my-self and other people who are even worse off, we need a more permanent solution,” said Seay.

City leaders said they know this plan won't fix the problem single-handedly, and they understand developers' concerns about losing money.

To mitigate those concerns, city leaders said developers will be allowed to build taller buildings and officials have also removed some parking requirements for developers and reduced some fees.

"This was a good opportunity to ask what kind of city we want to be,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Justin Camarata. “Whether we want to affordable—not just for people making higher incomes and for people on the bottom end of the socio economic scale as well."

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