Presentation Minutes

Tacoma Housing Authority –

  • Karen Bunce, Tacoma Housing Authority, Department Manager – Policy, Innovation and Evaluation -  - 253-682-6216
  • Aley Thompson, Tacoma Housing Authority, Project Manager - Policy, Innovation and Evaluation - - 253-274-5587
  • We have some Proposed Changes we are thinking about with the waiting list, for both the Properties and the Voucher Program
  • You are all the voice of many of the folks on our waitlist – and we want some more feedback before we make any changes
  • We are reaching out to our partners, landlords and property managers. 
  • Tacoma Housing Authority is a “Moving to Work” housing authority – one of 39 in the nation.  We are able to have some flexibility with funding that other housing authorities are not allowed.  We asked similar programs in the nation about their practices.  It is a high level overview of the responses is at
  • Proposed Changes to the Property waitlist (waitlist for the communities of housing operated by the Housing Authority – a bit more info at
    • We have a consolidated waitlist for the property waitlist.  Since it can take a long time (years) to get offered housing off the waitlist, we started offering folks on that waitlist a Housing Choice Voucher instead.  A few other Moving To Work agencies do this.  We also asked if other agencies had removed the waitlist completely.  We have considered possibly removing waitlists and doing first-come-first-serve.  Waitlist are a lot of work.  However, many of our nonprofit partners think waitlists allow more vulnerable clients to have fair access.  We’ve also found that many private landlords are starting waitlists themselves.  And one agency that removed waitlists is looking at bringing them back. 
    • Proposing that if someone is housed (except those housed through RRH) with THA through a housing voucher subsidy (section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher or through a partner agency) we will remove them from the waitlist and consider them housed.  We recycle a lot of the same folks over and over again.  We would have one family be on multiple waitlists.  They would move from one property to another.  We are looking at some fluid processes that allow us to shift with the housing market.  So, if you are consider housed with the Tacoma Housing Authority, no new unit.
    • We will continue to provide our property waitlist clients a Housing Opportunity Program Voucher – a 5-year work-ready voucher (this is one of those moments of not quite knowing for sure what something is – in this case the Housing Opportunity Program (HOP) voucher limits households where people are able to work to just 5 years of assistance.  Again – the website is a valuable place to learn about the different programs - -ed).   60% of folks have taken us up on this and have found housing on the open market. 
    • Remove property select option – in the past, clients could select multiple properties – by bedroom size.  Clients can’t select a property – they get what is available when they come up of the waitlist which may cause clients to move across town.  Housing would just be done by bedroom count.
    • Change rules for declining unit “for cause” (“for cause” meaning a good reason, like daycare location, job, etc.).  Proposal is clients can only decline a unit once.  Include additional items not currently considered “good cause” – like a client facing financial penalties from exiting an existing lease in order to enter a Housing Authority project, or if children are in a special school program.
      • Patricia – if they have a lease, aren’t they housed? Karin – only excluded if they are housed with us – income is the main eligibility factor, not housing status.
      • Maureen – on the point of good cause, I’ve seen some drafts on the Tacoma Tenant code, I’ve seen the language “good cause”  used in two ways.  Aley - yes, we are involved in conversation around “just cause” in tenant protections.  THA is governed by “just cause” evictions.  “Good cause” for declining leases is the terminology we’ll use.  Maureen – you might consider changing language to be much clearer.  Maybe have non-housing geeks help with phrasing.  Al – you can’t use phrasing you like if it is confusing to others.
      • Joyce – I’m from California, I’m going back to the declining the unit topic.  When someone is market-rate housing, they are eligible for a housing voucher.  They can say “no, I will decline it” or “yes I want it.”  I didn’t realize that folks housed could be eligible for these vouchers.  Aley – eligibility for THA assistance is income-based, not based on housing status.  Maureen – this if just for Tacoma. 
      • Lynn – can you decline based on job location? .  Karen – job is consider a “good cause”. 
      • Lavada – does a “good cause”  involve stairs?  Karen – reasonable accommodation would cover that
    • Adopting our occupancy standards for properties that we use for vouchers – where we do 2 heartbeats per room.  In our properties, flexibilities with different genders is there, but we don’t have that flexibility with our vouchers.  Looking at moving voucher system to property system.  Live-in help is exempted from the 2 heartbeat rule (good, because the valet would never share a room with the Valet. –ed).  Landlords are frustrated that the rules around our vouchers are more stringent than we apply to our properties.
    • Change to reinstatement policy.  If we don’t hear from a client in 14 business days after attempting to offer them housing, they have 12 months to reconnect to get reinstated on the waitlist (I think that is what they said. –ed). We want to change it to 6 months.   We will require that clients check in quarterly – via a portal where they can see where they are on the waitlist and check in, view info about utility debt and need for background checks that will be useful when they get close to the top of the waitlist.  Still have 6 months grace after removed from list to get back on. 
      • Maureen – the pre-rental list, are you offering classes to assist folks with being housed?  Looking to implement a renter readiness program – looking at different models – want to  give folks a few month notice when they will have a property come open. 
      • Marybeth – how does the spinnaker project work in the market rate rents.  Karen – we are working to keep these apartments affordable – running them at cost.
      • Brendan – hard for clients to find housing with vouchers.  Aley – we pay up to 110% of Fair Market Rents.  We often hear that our processes are onerous – necessary inspections take time.  We are very aware of the struggle that our folks with vouchers are facing – 45% of our vouchers are returned unused.  Trying to project-base as many voucher as possible, since we would control the property and would be sure that the vouchers get used.  We are offering as much subsidy as possible right now.  We are working on this. 
      • Patricia – do you place clients with vouchers in shared housing?  Karen – we do, but I’m not sure of the rate.  Aley – our voucher holders can use their vouchers for shared housing.  Patricia – do you assist landlords with evictions?  Aley – yes
    • Aley
    • 3 reasons to change the waitlist.  Want to move from 8 year waitlist to a 2 year waitlist
      • We want to make an easier to understand list
      • We want more operational efficiency
      • Want to work through our waitlist quicker (Kind of hard to argue with those reasons. –ed)
    • Maureen – there is a lot of misinformation around housing.  Karen – we will come back to tell you what we implement and talk over how to do it.


(I’m listening to music by Looking Glass while I’m writing this.  They are best known for “Brandy (You’re a fine girl)”, a song I love despite its somewhat misogynistic, paternalistic lyrics.  The rest of the album just sort of blends into the background, but wow, they nailed it with “Brandy”.  When my wife was pregnant, we never agreed on a girl name.  I remember pushing the name Brandy one time, and my wife was “you only like it because of that song”.  And I said, “no, I like it because of that song and because ‘Remy Martin’ is a terrible name for a girl.”  Anyway, we had two boys before the factory was shut down, so finding a girl’s name ended up being a moot point.  -ed.)   

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