The Tacoma Group fights for affordable housing and rent protections

In many ways it reminded me of a meeting I attended seven years ago. At the time, and in a back room of First United Methodist Church on Tacoma Avenue, I sat down with a group of five people from diverse backgrounds, all united by one goal: to raise Tacoma’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

On the message alone, the group was generally considered a fringe element at the time. Sure, there was a real living socialist with long hair, but there was also a retired Boeing software analyst. The nuance didn’t matter. For many, they were radicals, pushing radical ideas.

You may remember what happened next. The following year, Tacoma implemented a phased increase in the minimum wage — negotiated between the mayor, business interests and local labor advocates — that would push the city’s minimum wage higher than some previously thought. It wasn’t all the “radicals” wanted – and, to be clear, many of them were unhappy – but it wasn’t nothing. In fact, it was a huge shift in policy and public perception in a remarkably short period of time, due in large part to the pressure and effective politics employed by the group.

Now that is precisely what a New Tacoma-based group of activists — which many would likely describe in the same dismissive tone minimum wage advocates have received — hope to accomplish through the the city’s ambitious and ongoing housing density and rezoning process.

Under the banner of “Home in Tacoma for All”, and using the organizing punch of Tacoma Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (gasp!), the campaign — which borrows its name from the city’s Home in Tacoma project — is bound together by a purpose as well as a shared frustration that likely resonates throughout the city.

Campaign members like Ty Moore say Tacoma’s current efforts to increase density, prevent economic displacement and increase the city’s stock of affordable housing simply aren’t enough.

With developers hoisting cranes across town, market-priced units being built can be considered good news under the generic argument that all housing is good, but for the majority of Tacoma residents – and certainly any household living anywhere near the city’s annual median income of around $50,000 — they’re almost entirely unreachable, Moore says.

It’s an issue the Home in Tacoma for All campaign wants to tackle directly, Moore said – advocating for the city council to pass a host of drastic changes it could redefine Tacoma’s approach to creating affordable housing, the protections afforded to tenants, and the regulations we impose on carbon emissions.

“If (the city) is to deliver on its promises to increase equity, increase affordability and increase sustainability, it needs to have a set of policies tied to it that are at scale crisis,” Moore said late last month. , ahead of a Home in Tacoma for All event held on the campus of Evergreen State College Tacoma.

The campaign platform has three major elements, according to Nathan Schumer, another member of the Home in Tacoma Movement for All.

First, defenders defend a policy that, if passed, would require developers to either permanently make 25% of units in larger new developments affordable or contribute to a fund that would then be used to build affordable housing. . They also want leaders to create what is called a “social housing developer”. Using city budget money and Tacoma’s bridging capacity, they say increased public housing development could help build thousands of state-owned mixed-income units in years to come. . A a similar initiative is underway in Seattle.

Simultaneously, the campaign is fighting for the passage of a sweeping ‘Tenants’ Bill of Rights’ – which would for example require landlords to pay relocation assistance after major rent increases and require that six months’ notice be given. be given in the event of a rent increase – while also prohibiting the use of natural gas in all new residential construction.

It’s bold, ambitious and, politically speaking, probably a bit impossible.

While social housing developers and inclusive zoning efforts aren’t completely new or untested ideas, they would be a significant departure from current city policy, and both would undoubtedly face serious challenges. postponed.

But we’ve heard that before, haven’t we, before we look at the conversation and the evolution of public opinion?

It’s the long game and the goal, according to Ann Dorn, a volunteer with the Tacoma Tenants Union which is also part of the Home in Tacoma for All campaign.

“I think we are facing quite unprecedented housing conditions. It’s not going to get better on its own,” Dorn said. “Now is the time to act. We want this council to take very progressive actions, and that comes from advocacy.

Tacoma State Senator Yasmin Trudeau attended the Home in Tacoma for All community forum on April 23. residents who deserve to be part of the conversation about the future of Tacoma.

Too often, Trudeau said, those who bear the brunt of bad policy — like those experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness — are left behind.

Trudeau also said that while she thinks the Tacoma City Council is up to the challenge and determined to solve the problem, people aren’t wrong when they look around a changing city and wonder if the The city’s current growth trajectory has a place for them.

“I think when you look at social change, you can’t determine something is unrealistic until you’re willing to consider it, and that’s why I appreciate this conversation,” Trudeau said. “I’m all about figuring out, ‘Where do we want to be?’ And if people organize around that, as a policy maker…I’m ready to be pushed in. I think we all should be.

Rest assured, the Home in Tacoma for All campaign plans to keep the pressure on.

Reject their ideas at your peril and don’t be surprised to see many of them seeping into the mainstream the longer the housing crisis persists.

Matt Driscoll is a columnist for the News Tribune and the newspaper’s opinion editor. A recipient of the McClatchy President’s Award, Driscoll is passionate about Tacoma and strives to tell stories that otherwise would not be told.

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