Displaced Tiki tenants should be central to any decisions about their longtime homes

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A deal has been struck between Tacoma Housing Authority, Tacoma Community College, and CWD Investments over the fate of the Tiki Apartments. This agreement provides affordable housing to TCC students who are experiencing (or at risk of) homelessness. While of course it is good news that the units would be affordable for low-income students, the Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee – which includes many Tiki tenants – is deeply troubled that those most directly impacted have been completely left out of this process.

People in positions of power are making plans and decisions without directly consulting or following the leadership of the people who have been most marginalized and most impacted. The Tiki tenants have gone through the trauma and expense of being forced out of their homes (which some had lived in for 30 years), and many still do not have adequate housing, or they are living far away, or sleeping on friends’ couches. They came together amidst their pain to challenge what was happening to them, bringing this issue into the spotlight. The original Tiki tenants, in addition to the public, deserve more transparency over how this deal was made. Who was at the table? Public money is subsidizing this redevelopment, so the public must be central to the decisions that are being made. Why is the developer being characterized as benevolent when he is still getting $1185 per unit, which is market rate?

Disabled folks and seniors and students all need housing to survive, and we all should be at the table to make decisions about the development in our community. We should not feel pitted against each other, competing for resources, while developers line their pockets with public subsidies.”

Six months ago, Tiki tenants included the “Right of Return” in their original request to City Council. “We understand students need housing too,” says Donna Seay, former Tiki tenant. “But the Tiki residents who were forced out should get the option to return to the building. Many of us do not have good living situations. I’m floored right now that no Tiki residents were part of this process. I’m disgusted, actually.”

Sarah Howe shared similar concerns: “I’m happy for the students, but what about the Tiki tenants? After a painful and stressful ordeal moving to a place that was not accessible, I have finally found a good apartment in Tacoma, but I know many Tiki tenants who aren’t in a great place and they should have the opportunity to move back to the renovated apartments.”

TCC student Cathy Pick agrees: “TCC students definitely need affordable housing, but we also want Tiki tenants to be able to return to their homes if they so choose. We shouldn’t have to be in competition for affordable housing resources.”

Disabled folks and seniors and students all need housing to survive, and we all should be at the table to make decisions about the development in our community. We should not feel pitted against each other, competing for resources, while developers line their pockets with public subsidies. We need more public housing and stronger protections to ensure that we can stay in our homes, and if renovation is needed, we should be able to move back through right of first return. Housing is a human right and Tacoma is our home. Chad Duncan claims to have done “a lot of listening” since he uprooted our community in April, but he should actually start listening to us.

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