Message from the Director

Message from the Director

On behalf of THA's Board of Commissioners and staff, I welcome you to the web site for the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA). We hope you find it useful.

The primary mission of the Tacoma Housing Authority is to provide high quality, affordable housing and supportive services to persons and families in need. We seek to do this in ways that also get two other things done. First, we want the households we serve to succeed, not just as tenants, but also, as our mission statement contemplates, as "parents, students, wage earners and builders of assets." If they are capable of working, we want their time on our programs to be transforming in those ways, and temporary. We want this certainly for grownups.  We want this success emphatically for children and youth because we do not wish them to need our housing when they grow up. Second, we want to help our communities succeed, and to do so equitably, with a shared prosperity.  We want their success to leave room for all types and incomes of households. We seek to do our part in making neighborhoods "attractive places to live, work, attend school, shop, and play", and to help Tacoma and Pierce County be "safe, vibrant, prosperous, attractive, and just." When these efforts work, they are a very good use of a housing dollar.

Understood this way, this work puts us face to face with age-old questions about poverty, the effect of place and neighborhood on a family's prospects to escape it, and how a housing dollar can make escape more likely. This work entangles us in questions of economic justice, racial justice, community as well as housing development, individual responsibility, and the appropriate role of government. We and our many partners see these questions up close, and that makes the work challenging. Sometimes we see the answers, and that makes the work meaningful.

THA is a public housing authority. We are also a Moving to Work (MTW) public housing authority. Our MTW status helps us do this work creatively, efficiently and flexibly to account for the needs and markets of Tacoma and Pierce County. We have a nonprofit affiliate organization. We are also a public development authority. That helps too.

We do this work in four main ways.

First, THA develops housing and real estate. THA seeks, by what it builds and how it builds, to create properties that serve a range of needs and that are financially sustainable, environmentally innovative, and attractive. We seek by our development to encourage others to invest in neighborhoods that need investment. We try to invest in ways that preserve or contribute an economic or racial integration in neighborhoods and public schools.  We also try to set an example with our design. We tell ourselves that both ugly and lovely are contagious. If we design and build attractive properties then other developers are more likely to do so. In particular, we try to show that the higher residential densities that the City's comprehensive plan directs can also look very nice.

THA also helps to develop or finance housing for other Tacoma and Pierce County nonprofits that share our mission. We do this for several reasons. Those other organizations may serve people with special needs, such as persons who are mentally ill or dependent on drugs or alcohol or fleeing domestic violence. THA may not have the specialized skills necessary to serve these populations. A good way for THA to serve them is to finance the efforts of other high capacity organizations with those skills. THA's financing also helps them leverage other sources of money, public and private. This brings more resources into Tacoma and Pierce County. Finally, THA's development and financing can help to strengthen our nonprofit partners. That too makes our communities stronger.

Second, THA owns and manages affordable apartments and homes that we offer for rent. We are one of the largest residential landlords in the area. We seek to maintain our properties so they are attractive and enjoyable places to live and are assets for their neighborhoods.

Third, we help people pay their rent for apartments or homes that they lease from private landlords. This is how we serve most of the people we help. We do this in partnership with hundreds of private landlords. Our Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) and our Housing Opportunity Program (HOP) are our main programs for this type of assistance. THA also funds specialized forms of rental assistance to address households with particular needs. Some examples are rental assistance programs for homeless families with children, homeless youth without families, homeless young adults, homeless families with enrolled public school students, homeless students during their community college enrollment, homeless veterans, persons in nursing homes who could live on their own if only they could afford housing, and families who need housing to prevent or shorten their children's need for foster care. We also pay to house teenagers aging out of foster care who would otherwise begin their adulthood by becoming homeless.

Fourth, THA provides or arranges for supportive services. We do this for people who need help to succeed as tenants. Elderly or disabled persons, for example, may need help to live on their own. Families coming from homelessness or fleeing domestic violence may need help to stabilize. Services make their stabilization a lot more likely. Moreover, we seek to help families and children prosper. We help people get job skills, find work, learn English, get a drivers license, clean up credit, and acquire assets.  Assets can help a family manage temporary losses of income. They can help a family pass on a prosperity to children.  In asset building of another kind, THA's Education Project seeks ways to spend a housing dollar not only to house a family but also to help them and their children succeed in school and to promote the success of public schools and colleges that serve low-income students.

THA does this work in partnership with private landlords, the Tacoma Public School District, the public colleges in Tacoma, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the State of Washington, many nonprofit housing and service providers, advocates, community organizations, police officers, the City of Tacoma, Pierce County, and many public and private sources of funding and financing.

In these ways, and others, THA tries to serve its communities. We are a Board of five community volunteers and a staff of about 130 people. We believe this work is important. THA's statement of values also conveys our belief that work in service to others is "honorable" work. We mean to do it "honorably, effectively, efficiently, with pride, compassion and respect". We invite you to learn more about us and our work. We hope this web site will help you do that.

Michael Mirra 
Executive Director