Tacoma is desperate for more affordable housing. To build it we need the state’s help | Opinion

No one should have to come home from work and be faced with the impossible choice of putting food on the table or having a roof over their head. But, in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, far too many are. Washington state, and Tacoma, have not been left unscathed.

In Tacoma, according to data published by Zillow, home values have increased by 178 percent since 2000 and the cost of rent has increased by nearly 40 percent since 2019. Before the pandemic, two out of five households spent at least a third of their income on housing. We can plainly and visibly see that the pandemic has made things worse. For far too many, basic housing is now an unattainable luxury. And our lower-income and historically marginalized residents have been disproportionately impacted by these disturbing trends.

This is more than a housing crisis. This is a full-scale humanitarian crisis.

The City of Tacoma has been proactive in taking steps to alleviate it with a plan that ensures housing dollars are spent strategically. This plan has been foundational to the passage of City Council policies like Home in Tacoma. One of the most expansive, flexible residential policies in the state, Home in Tacoma opened up a range of housing types allowing more than one unit per lot in a way that was compatible in scale with single-family homes while preserving the unique character of Tacoma’s historic neighborhoods. With state funding augmenting local funding, Tacoma has also implemented a number of other options for deeply affordable housing.

But we need to do more to address the staggering level of need that exists. Action at all levels of government is critical in order to keep pace with the anticipated growth of our region over the next 20 years. With just a few weeks left in the state legislative session, efforts to find policy solutions to address the state’s housing crisis continue in earnest. As the Legislature focuses on critical changes to increase our housing supply statewide, more local funding for housing development is desperately needed. There are two proposals that would provide this necessary funding.

HB 1628, the Affordable Homes Act, creates a 1% increase in a portion of real estate taxes paid on properties worth more than $5 million, providing the state an additional $200 million per year to distribute to local communities. It also creates a new local option to levy one-fourth of 1 percent tax on real estate transactions, providing approximately $7 million more annually for housing and homelessness in Tacoma.

SB 5202, proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee, is a referendum that raises $4 billion over six years without taxation, by issuing bonds to add housing across the state.

We urge our legislators to act now. You can help by contacting them and asking for their support of HB 1628 and SB 5202 to boost local efforts around affordable housing.

These two proposals would provide a path forward in a manner we so urgently need.

April Black is the Executive Director of Tacoma Housing Authority. She has been with THA for 14 years and has been working in public housing for over two decades.

Victoria Woodards has served as Tacoma’s mayor since 2018. She previously served seven years on the City Council.