Converting hotels to low-income hotels does not increase the number of rental units available in Tacoma.
The housing crisis is a hot topic of conversation in Tacoma and for good reason. Tacoma doesn’t have enough affordable housing – the median apartment rental price here for one bedroom is $1,642, not including utilities and fees. This, combined with the Tacoma City Council’s decision prohibiting all camping in the ten temporary housing blocks, creates a no-win scenario for low-income housing for insecure Tacoma residents. The creation of affordable housing seems to be the obvious solution to this problem.
In October, another investment group filed the necessary permits to convert a motel on Hosmer Street into social housing. According to the permit, there will be over 100 rental units priced at approximately $1,000 per month. This development will fill a necessary niche.
Few people would disagree that Tacoma needs more low-income housing. However, converting motels to apartments does not solve the housing crisis, nor does it solve rising rental prices or provide additional housing for low-income people. In fact, turning a hotel into an apartment doesn’t even increase the number of rental units available in Tacoma. What this actually does is convert low-barrier, low-income housing into high-barrier, low-income housing.
Using the Hosmer Motel 6 as an example, a room costs an average of $80 to $100 a night. Multiply that by 30, you’re spending about $3,000 per month. On the other hand, the apartments offered would cost around 1,000 dollars per month, three times less than a hotel. However, for some Tacoma residents, hotels are the only resource available to them. Hotels do not require a good credit score or rental history and do not discriminate based on eviction history. Not to mention, saving a down payment takes time. If the weather is below zero, people need shelter that night.
Hospitality is an immediate solution, while social housing is a long-term solution. We need both – we can’t take one and turn it into another.
Tacoma should also consider whether this is the best location for low-income housing. People who need low-cost housing often lack resources that other members of the community take for granted, namely a working vehicle. The Hosmer area has a reputation for a high rate of violent crime and is not a family friendly neighborhood – sidewalks are not maintained, there are few parks or public recreation areas, and bus stops are far from each other. The residents of the Hosmer zone are already neglected, and the increase in the number of vulnerable residents in this zone will stretch an already overloaded system.
The neglect of the Hosmer Street area is a direct by-product of the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) mindset. Having a NIMBY mindset means supporting building facilities and resources…as long as it’s not near where you would have to deal with it. Many Tacoma residents support the creation of temporary housing and low-income rentals, but oppose construction in their own neighborhoods.
Instead of the Hosmer area, it would make more sense to place a social housing development in a more affluent neighborhood such as the Proctor District or the Stadium District. These areas have the infrastructure and resources that low-income residents need – a good bus system, high-quality public schools, public parks, and safe pedestrian streets.
By placing low-income housing in a high-needs neighborhood, Tacoma keeps the housing crisis out of sight of wealthier residents. This is not a long-term solution or a way to relieve our homeless community – Tacoma maintains a deeply impoverished street in order to keep it separate from others.