Local governments worked feverishly this summer to create processes and seek input from stakeholders to invest millions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, initially distributed to qualifying jurisdictions in May.
Tacoma Habitat has worked closely with Pierce County and the cities of Tacoma and Lakewood to give voice to both the concerns of foreclosure and access to affordable homeownership opportunities.
In early August we saw our first success with the Tacoma City Council which, upon recommendation from the Community & Economic Development Department and with strong support from Councilmembers Beale and Walker, invested $1.3 million in infrastructure improvements to support affordable housing development. Tacoma Habitat’s upcoming Madison Meadow project will receive approximately $300,000 as a result.
Last week, the City of Lakewood took similar ARPA action under Ordinance 759. With strong support from Mayor Anderson and Councilmember Farmer, the Council moved to appropriate $242,000 of it’s ARPA funds to support sewer and water infrastructure improvements for Tacoma Habitat’s upcoming 12-unit development in Tillicum. As with the City of Tacoma infrastructure investments, these funds are critical to the development of affordable housing and are traditionally non or underfunded piece of the puzzle.
Our work with Pierce County has focused primarily on our foreclosure prevention and housing counseling programs. This work includes supporting clients’ payments of mortgage delinquencies and working collaboratively with lenders to ensure low- and moderate-income homeowners do not lose their homes.
Since March of 2020, our small staff has served more than 400 clients with housing counseling—with one full-time housing counselor, two employees for whom housing counseling is just part of their work, and a small network of contractors. During this time, each employee has managed an average caseload of 55+ active clients, compared to the industry standard which is 25-30 active clients.
Habitat is working with Pierce County to advance a request for ARPA funding to increase the HUD certified housing counselor network in Pierce County in order to ensure that clients are able to easily access and receive housing counseling services to prevent foreclosure.
We’ll continue to keep our blog updated on ARPA funding progress. In the meantime, we encourage you to let your City and County Councilmembers know that you support the usage of ARPA funds to fund affordable housing in your community.