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Housing Disparity in Tacoma

in Advocacy

The City of Tacoma released a comprehensive report on race-based disparity in homeownership in November 2021. Conducted by ECONorthwest and BDS Planning, the study carried out Resolution 40697 and is a part of the City’s anti-racism initiative. In addition to analyzing systemic disparities in homeownership opportunities among Black households in Tacoma, the report also identifies strategies to address impacts of that discrimination.

Overall, the project team found clear disparities associated with Black populations owning homes which are not currently addressed by the existing housing programs available in the City.

The following are some of the report’s more impactful data points:

  • Tacoma has become one of the most racially diverse cities in Washington. Overall, 41.5% of Tacoma residents are people of color with 10.2% of the total share identifying as Black/African American. About 81 percent of new residents in the Puget Sound region identify as people of color.
  • From 1990 to 2020, Black households have experienced a stark trend of decreased While other racial groups have either experienced increased or stabilized rates of homeownership, Black households were more likely to lose ownership of homes and enter the rental market.
  • Due to a host of systemic factors including access to education, Black households in Tacoma have the lowest median income compared to all the other races/ethnicities.
  • The central, west end, and eastside areas of Tacoma are showing signs of being at risk for gentrification, early/ongoing gentrification, or advanced gentrification as Black households are moving out of both owned homes and rentals at or near the City’s center.
  • The mortgage analysis results based on 2020 data indicate that Black, Hispanic, and other minority applicants are relatively less successful than White applicants in obtaining mortgage financing in the City of Tacoma by as much as 14%. And though Black applicants make up only 6% of mortgage applicants, they make up nearly 10% of all denied applications.
  • Black households in Tacoma had the lowest median household income ($47,756) in 2019 compared to all other race/ethnicity categories, ranking significantly lower than the overall median income value for all households.

Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity is proud to already have some of the study’s recommendations in place, including:

  • Housing Counseling – Tacoma Habitat’s HUD-approved counselors provide no-cost education on the mortgage process and requirements, as well as help people manage finances, remedy poor credit issues and build sufficient credit history. This program is open to any Pierce County resident.
  • Foreclosure Prevention – In partnership with the City of Tacoma and Pierce County, Tacoma Habitat provides service delivery of foreclosure prevention programs. These programs provide counseling and up to four months of mortgage assistance ($6,000 cap) paid directly to the loan servicer, bank or mortgage company of qualified households who experienced loss of employment or reduction in wages due to COVID-19, and have an income at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
  • Alternative Forms of Homeownership – In August of 2021, Tacoma Habitat announced the adoption of a new homeownership model based on a land trust concept. This model provides permanent affordability, preserving the homeowners’ initial investment while also providing future generations continued access to affordable homes. The homeowner buys only the house—not the land—making the purchase price more affordable. The land is then leased by the homeowners, from Habitat, in a long-term, renewable and inheritable lease (often a 99-year term). In doing so, homeowners agree to sell the home at a restricted price to an income-qualified buyer, ensuring its ongoing affordability. Tacoma Habitat sold its first restricted resale home in April of 2022.
  • Keeping People in Their Homes – Tacoma Habitat piloted a critical home repair program in 2020 and began open enrollment in 2021. This program, Aging in Place, provides low-cost home repair, modification and weatherization for seniors aged 60+ and Veterans. While some clients qualify for financial assistance through Pierce County or the City of Tacoma, more than half the Aging in Place projects Habitat does are donor-funded.

Historically, 60% of Habitat homeowners in Pierce County are people of color. In our current Fern Hill development, 75% of our homes are matched with Black buyers. Tacoma Habitat is also a proud participant in Habitat for Humanity International’s Advancing Black Homeownership Initiative, and participates locally in both the Coalition for More Housing Choices to Increase Black Homeownership Opportunities and the Black Home Initiative led by Civic Commons.

The City of Tacoma is in the midst of numerous planning projects to address the need for more affordable housing options, including homeownership, to all income levels. This includes City of Tacoma Affordable Housing Action Strategy (2018), Home in Tacoma and the 2025 Strategic Plan which prioritizes equity and access to opportunity, services, facilities, and financial stability as one of the five focus areas.

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