TCC uses former Tiki Apartments to expand housing help for students

TCC uses former Tiki Apartments to expand housing help for students (KOMO News)

TACOMA, Wash. – An apartment building that forced out disabled tenants to undertake a major remodel is now reopening as housing for homeless college students.

While it may seem a bit ironic to move out one vulnerable group and replace it with another, officials at Tacoma Community College said they are meeting a huge need among students overwhelmed by the area's high cost of living.

Even though she works two jobs, Erika Berry said she couldn't afford to stay in school without a housing voucher program offered through TCC.

“I feel like I'd be homeless, or pretty close to it,” Berry said. “I don't know how other people make it without it."

A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin found that 69 percent of students at TCC faced housing insecurity in the past year. Another 27 percent were actually homeless.

To help, the school teamed up with CDW Investments, the owner of the former Tiki Apartments, as well as the Tacoma Housing Authority, to expand its voucher program for students who stay in these soon-to-be remodeled units. The complex will be called Highland Flats when it reopens in a few weeks.

“The fact that the school can help provide this for students, especially if it's so close so you can just walk to school, you don't have to worry about transportation, I think it's a great thing,” Berry said.

Berry already has a place to stay, but students who qualify for Highland Flats will have rents capped at $420 a month. The housing authority will pay for the remaining $765 plus utilities for each unit.

TCC officials said the voucher program has kept more students from dropping out due to financial reasons. It has also boosted grade point averages.

The tenants pushed out of the Tiki complex said they are happy for the students but still wonder why they had to sacrifice their homes.

“We don't want to compete with each other. We don't want it to be a contest and I'm not looking to get back in, but I know people who would probably love to have a place where they are paying $420 a month,” said Sarah Howe with the Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee.

Howe is also a former Tiki resident who is blind and uses a wheelchair. She said she, and many of her disabled neighbors displaced from that building, would have appreciated a seat at the table when this housing program was being discussed.

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