Wednesday, July 26, 2017 This Week's Paper

Home ownership assistance is on the way

The City of Tacoma’s efforts to shore up the housing market in the city’s neighborhoods with the highest foreclosure rates got a boost recently.

News came that the local housing effort will receive $3.86 million for a set of programs that will provide qualified buyers with financial support to make down payments on foreclosed homes that have been largely abandoned in Hilltop, East Side and South Tacoma neighborhoods. Some of the money will also go to a local partnership that includes Homeownership Center of Tacoma, Habitat for Humanity and the Tacoma Housing Authority to help those groups buy, renovate and then resell foreclosed houses rather than let them go vacant and neglected.

“The idea is to prevent blight by getting new homeowners into those homes,” said Tacoma’s Housing Division Manager Richard Teasley. “We won’t be just improving one house. We will be improving a neighborhood.”

The concept behind the Tacoma effort is to get new homeowners into vacant homes as soon as possible, since new homeowners often become models for the neighborhood by taking great care with their new purchase. That pride in home ownership then spreads through the neighborhood since no one wants to live in the most ugly house on the block, so the theory goes.

The money comes from the state’s $43.8 million portion of a national $235 billion settlement with the country’s five largest mortgage servicers that was announced earlier this year. About a dozen groups around the state shared the $43.8 million in a formula that was meant to provide funding to all areas of Washington, particularly financially troubled neighborhoods. The settlement also included $18 million bound for organizations that provide direct mortgage relief to consumers through counseling, legal assistance and mediation services. That effort is expected to serve some 30,000 low-income people who are expected to face foreclosure or the more than 135,000 households whose homes were already foreclosed upon in the last four years.

Tacoma will model this new effort after the multi-faceted approach it took in 2009 when it established the Neighborhood Stabilization
Program with $3.5 million that has now been spent on services and assistance. The recent infusion of money will be formally accepted by Tacoma City Council on Sept. 25, with details of how the program will work due out in the late fall.