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U.S. House committee advances Tacoma affordable housing funds

Last Friday, the House Appropriations Committee advanced new federal funding that has been championed by U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) to support two projects that aim to provide more affordable housing and job opportunities in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma. The investments aim to revitalize a historic Tacoma neighborhood and to help ensure the residential and business spaces will be attainable to community residents and BIPOC-owned businesses.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced $3 million for the Tacoma Housing Authority’s Hilltop Housing and Commercial project to begin redeveloping three parcels of land as part of a public-private partnership. This project will bring approximately 200 units of affordable housing to households earning up to 60% of the Average Minimum Income (AMI) and approximately 20,000 sq. ft. of commercial space for predominately BIPOC-owned businesses. Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee advanced $1.5 million for the Hilltop Attainable Housing and Businesses Development project, which aims to provide community ownership of a mixed-use hub for culture, community, homes, and businesses on the Hilltop.

The Tacoma Housing Authority owns three parcels within two blocks in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma. They aim to redevelop these sites as part of public private partnership to bring approximately 200 units of affordable housing and approximately 20,000 sq. ft. of commercial space. The $3 million included in the spending bill will be used to acquire the commercial spaces and provide financial assistance to business owners to do the tenant improvements needed for their spaces. Commercial tenants are expected to include a performing arts center and other BIPOC businesses. The Tacoma Housing Authority has a goal to occupy 80% of the commercial space with BIPOC businesses to reflect the local neighborhood and honor its culture.

For nearly two years, Forterra has been working with Hilltop community residents and businesses on a real estate development project – the Hilltop Attainable Housing and Businesses project – which aims to address the community’s need for a central cultural hub for the Black community and that will provide a home for small businesses, community ownership, community gathering space, and attainably-priced homes.

Forterra aims to develop four buildings to include 150-175 rental units and 150-175 limited equity cooperative ownership model units. At least 50% of the total rental and home ownership units will be affordable. According to Forterra, their limited equity cooperative home ownership model aims to significantly lower down payments and mortgage payments for prospective homeowners next to Sound Transit’s light rail extension. In addition to the attainable housing, the project will include approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space for community-owned businesses and local non-profits. The buildings will be designed with community input, providing space for local, small businesses and community organizations, and helping build wealth for families priced out by gentrification and housing scarcity.

Rep. Kilmer led the effort to secure funding for the projects through the House Appropriations Committee’s Community Project Funding process.

The Community Project Funding request by the Tacoma Housing Authority was supported by Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, the Tacoma Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, and Hilltop Action Coalition. The Community Project Funding request by Forterra was supported by the Pierce County Council and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.


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