Students Research Five Ways Tacoma Can Address Housing Crisis

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A 2018 Livable City Year project sheds light on the pros and cons of housing options such as community land trusts and tiny homes.

Five Housing Options

UW Tacoma students are providing the City of Tacoma with the pros and cons of five different housing strategies.

Tiny home developments

Whether to address housing inaffordability or homelessness, houses of under 400 square feet, or even under 100 square feet, are emerging as one strategy.

Land banks

A city or county may acquire land parcels through the tax-foreclosure process, and may then offer those parcels to new owners for redevelopment.

Community development corporations

These non-profit organizations are created to support and revitalize specific communities, often through housing development.

Community land trusts

A non-profit organization leases housing to occupants. When an occupant moves, the trust retains a portion of any capital gains, thus keeping prices affordable for the next buyer.

Modular housing

Housing assembled on-site on a permanent foundation from components built off-site, at a savings of cost and time.

City leaders will come to campus Tuesday, June 5 to hear from students about ways to increase housing options in Tacoma. Urban Studies Assistant Professor Anaid Yerena organized the “Housing Symposium” as part of the UW Livable City Year (LCY). Each year LCY chooses one local government to collaborate with on “city-identified, high-priority projects.”  Livable City chose Tacoma for its 2017-2018 initiative. “The city is seeking more background information on five specific topics related to housing,” said Yerena.

Local officials tasked Yerena and her students with researching and reporting back on five different housing options including: tiny home developments, land banks, community development corporations, community land trusts and modular housing. “I decided to make this the final project for my housing in the US class with students working on this project the entire quarter,” said Yerena.

Students will present their findings during an open-house-style symposium. “This won’t be a debate or a large presentation,” said Yerena. “Students will share their findings with guests including the pros and cons of each option in small-groups.” Besides the oral presentation, students will also produce a poster and a written report that will be given to the city.

The symposium comes as Tacoma and other cities in Western Washington grapple with how to handle rising home prices and rents. “The city chose these topics, so they’re interested in possibly incorporating some of these ideas,” said Yerena.

Academics like Yerena spend a lot of time researching and exploring their areas of interest with the hope of publishing their findings in peer-reviewed journals. Yerena still does this but says her focus has shifted. “I feel it makes more sense for me right now to invest my energy in helping the community figure out solutions.”

The symposium is part of a larger effort by the city to gather input from members of the community. At least two different listening sessions on the topic of affordable housing have been held with another scheduled for June 7. The city is also requesting feedback from residents through a survey that is open to residents through June 10.

The symposium runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5 in the ground floor of Tacoma Paper & Stationary. The event is free and open to the public.

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / May 31, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or