Tacoma’s Teasley, Habitat for Humanity earn affordable housing awards

The Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium has named the 2012 recipients of its annual “Excellence in Affordable Housing” awards. The juried awards honor individuals and organizations that have made significant advances toward curbing homelessness and providing safe, healthy, affordable homes in the South Sound.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (WLIHA) earned top honors in the “Advocacy” category for its work in Olympia on behalf of the State Housing Trust Fund, which leverages five dollars in additional funding and financing for every dollar it contributes. As a result, over $62 million has been invested in Pierce County since 1987. Earlier this year, WLIHA supported the Trust Fund’s inclusion in the legislature’s jobs bill, providing $67 million for the State for the current biennium.

City of Tacoma housing division manager Ric Teasley earned the “Community Impact” award for his work to secure funds through the National Mortgage Settlement, which provides money to help correct problems caused by the foreclosure crisis in the US. Teasley partnered with local housing development organizations to prepare a strong application for funds from the settlement through the Washington Attorney General’s office. As a result, the City of Tacoma was awarded almost $4 million to buy, repair and sell previously foreclosed homes at affordable prices with down payment assistance.

Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) earned the “Innovation” award for its ground-breaking pilot project with McCarver Elementary. McCarver has the highest number of homeless students in the Tacoma School District, and the highest annual student turnover rate — 100 per cent in 2010-11, according to Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium officials. A partnership between THA and the school district was born. With funding provided by the Gates Foundation and Building Changes, THA began providing long-term rental assistance to 50 families whose children attend McCarver, along with intensive case management to help those parents improve their education and employment prospects. The goal was to stabilize the living situation, and keep both the children and parents engaged in the educational process. The school committed to curriculum changes and enhancements, and rental assistance continues for as long as families actively participate. So far, the data show a 96 per cent retention rate of students in the program. Anecdotal evidence shows the students are performing better in school, with fewer suspensions, greater attendance, and greater academic and behavioral progress.

Tacoma-Pierce County (TPC) Habitat for Humanity gained top honors in the area of “Sustainability.” In late-2009, TPC Habitat for Humanity purchased a 1.74 acre parcel in South Tacoma complete with a vacant derelict house, overgrown vegetation, rodent infestation and a homeless encampment. In three short years, this site was transformed into a cozy neighborhood of 13 affordable low-income owner-occupied homes. These homes are not only affordable to purchase, they are affordable to heat, operate and maintain. All are certified under the Energy Star and Built Green programs, as well as the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard. They feature high-efficiency heating systems, lighting and appliances as well as insulation levels that exceed code requirements, water-conserving plumbing fixtures and sustainably produced building materials. Approximately 98 per cent of all construction waste from the project was recycled. This Habitat neighborhood is also the site of Pierce County’s first Passive Home.

The Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium represents more than 50 non-profit, private and public entities with economic and social interests in the design, development and operation of safe, healthy and affordable housing in the Puget Sound region.

More information is available online at affordablehousingconsortium.org.