Written By Lionel Donovan – King 5 News
TACOMA, Wash. — Community leaders gathered at Tacoma’s Urban Performing Arts Center on Thursday to celebrate a renewed effort to invest in the Hilltop community.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved $4.5 million in federal funding to support two projects in Tacoma’s historically Black neighborhood.
Of that $4.5 million, $3 million will go towards the development of nearly 200 units of affordable housing, which would become available to households earning up to 60% of the average minimum income, in addition to around 20,000-square-feet of commercial space for predominately BIPOC-owned businesses.
The other $1.5 million will go towards community ownership of a mixed-use hub for culture, community, homes, and businesses on the Hilltop.
Jeffery Dade, director of community development for Forterra, said the investment will go a long way in making sure Hilltop’s Black residents aren’t left behind as the city moves forward with citywide development projects like the light rail line currently under construction through the neighborhood.
“Transit-induced displacement follows transit-oriented development,” said Dade. “It’s so important that we make sure that Hilltop stays as it has for 150 years, that Black folks can come to the fore, that they can get can get their say and that they’re not just pushed out.”
Representative Derek Kilmer, who advocated for the investment, took a tour of where the money is planning to be spent and heard from local leaders about how Hilltop needs affordable housing that targets residents living in Tacoma.
“When we say affordable, we mean Tacoma’s definition of affordable. Not the state’s definition,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards.
Kilmer said getting these funds to the Hilltop was vital, especially after the pandemic, but it was also important to have the community’s input to make sure the projects truly addressed the neighborhood’s needs.
“You see in both of these projects, terrific collaborative projects, you’re gonna create more affordable housing [that are] gonna create more economic opportunities that I think is going to build the vitality of this community in a really positive way,” said Kilmer.
Kilmer said distributing the funding to the Tacoma Housing Authority is already underway. The plan is to have both projects completed by late 2024.
Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning, innovative programs and policies, farming and forestry approaches, community ownership opportunities, and development solutions. Visit www.forterra.org.