Tacoma’s Got Housing Vouchers Just for College Students (Tacoma Housing Authority)

Date Published: 
February 5th, 2020

From Next City:

At the beginning of the spring 2020 semester, the chancellor at the University of Washington Tacoma sent out an advisory to students: “If you or someone you know is dealing with housing issues that might interfere with the ability to succeed in school,” it said, “a new program could help.”

A new apartment building had just opened, ten minutes’ walk from campus, and 63 of its 152 units would be subsidized for students who were homeless or housing-insecure — struggling regularly to pay rent or utilities, moving frequently, or living in substandard housing. It was the second year in a row that a new development opened near campus with some of its small apartments set aside for low-income students. And the apartments are small — as little as 250 square feet for a studio in the building that opened last year.

“When I went inside, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this wouldn’t even hold my office,’” says Mentha Hynes-Wilson, the vice chancellor for student affairs at UWT. “But the feedback we’re getting from students is that it is really meeting their needs.”

Typically, the studios start at around $800 a month. But through the College Housing Assistance Program at the Tacoma Housing Authority, some students are eligible for subsidized housing units, in the range of $400 to $800 a month, based on income. The CHAP program was launched as a pilot in 2014, with 47 homeless or “near homeless” students at Tacoma Community College (TCC) receiving housing vouchers to use on the private market, providing a flat subsidy based on their household size. Over the next two years, the Authority tracked those students’ performance, along with the performance of 154 students in similar positions who didn’t receive housing assistance. At the end of that period, according to the Authority, 60 percent of the participants had graduated or remained enrolled, as opposed to 16 percent of the students who didn’t receive assistance. And the GPA for the pilot group was 3.05, as opposed to 2.75 for the larger group. The pilot was later expanded at TCC, and it was made available to UWT students, many of whom transfer from the community college, in 2018.

Read Next City's article "Tacoma’s Got Housing Vouchers Just for College Students," featuring the Tacoma Housing Authority.

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