Urban Studies Annual Forum

Main page content

2020 Urban Studies Forum:
Attainable Housing and the Future of Prosperity and Inclusion in Pierce County

Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Time: TBA
UW Tacoma, William Philip Hall

Access to attainable housing is a perennial challenge in American urban planning and policy. The ever-climbing housing costs in most metropolitan areas have far exceeded incomes, and every generation finds itself further distanced from the ‘American Dream.’ Cities that once produced the middle class have turned into consumers of the middle class, attracting only those that can afford their ‘lifestyles.’

Over the last decade, median housing sale prices have more than doubled, while incomes have barely kept up with inflation. The increase in home values has affected the rental market as well, putting certain neighborhoods and cities out of reach. The result is seen during every morning and afternoon rush hour. More than half of the households in Pierce County are cost-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Nearly a quarter are also severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income on housing. The ‘positive’ direction of the county housing market, making it one of the hottest in the nation, creates additional worry about the future of housing for working families.

It is time for the region to formulate strategies and policies that prevent displacement and makes this region a producer and not a consumer of the middle class. Furthermore, given the historical and current data on the impact of housing costs and the resulting displacement on communities of color and their neighborhoods, housing policies need to fully consider social and spatial equity issues in our region.

This year’s annual forum will bring experts from around the nation to discuss various housing policies, their implementation, and patterns of success and failure. This will include both housing experts and regional decisionmakers. A panel of local policymakers will then present their approaches and strategies, while considering the wide array of presentations preceding them.

Registration will open in December.