The Tacoma/Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium has named Tacoma Community College an Excellence in Affordable Housing Award winner in the “innovation” category for 2019. The college was recognized along with community partners, the University of Washington-Tacoma (UWT), Koz Development and CWD Investments, at the Excellence in Affordable Housing Event on Oct. 17 at Annie Wright School in Tacoma.
The award recognizes the success of TCC’s College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), a partnership with the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) and other community organizations that allows homeless and near-homeless students to access housing vouchers and low-cost apartments subsidized by THA.
“This is a tremendous honor to be recognized for our work to support homeless or near-homeless students with our community partners,” said TCC President Ivan L. Harrell, II, Ph.D. “But the true winners here are the students who continue to persevere when life becomes challenging. With our combined efforts, we are working hard to build a brighter future for students.”
History of CHAP
TCC launched CHAP in 2014 as a pilot program with THA. Initially CHAP provided housing vouchers to 45 homeless TCC students; 70 percent of them were parents of young children. The students’ progress was tracked as part of a study by the University of Wisconsin’s HOPE Lab, and the results were so impressive that in 2016 CHAP was expanded to serve 150 students, including 25 student who face the extra challenge of starting college after release from prison.
“These students are already striving and intend to better their lives and prospects and the lives and prospects of their children. All they need is an affordable, safe and secure place to live during their schooling,” reads the nomination.
In 2016 the CHAP model changed. Tacoma’s rental market had become so expensive that it was difficult for students to find housing even with the vouchers. THA started buying apartment complexes near the college and making arrangements with nearby landlords to subsidize housing prioritized for TCC students experiencing housing challenges.
CWD Investments was the first developer to join the partnership, dedicating the recently renovated Highland Flats (formerly the Tiki Apartments) to house both TCC students and former Tiki Apartment residents who had been displaced by the renovation. CWD then added Crosspointe Apartments, another complex within walking distance of TCC.
In 2016 UWT joined the program, working with Koz Development and THA to dedicate 104 micro-units in a nearby apartment complex to homeless UWT students. Because most TCC transfer students transfer to UWT, the program allows TCC CHAP students to retain their housing assistance if they transfer to UWT to pursue a 4-year degree.
TCC supports this work through by marketing CHAP to students, referring students, tracking tenancies and keeping track of other operational details. The college also manages a fund to help students pay security and utility deposits, purchase furniture and cover other move-in expenses. Because THA does not have the resources to perform these functions, this support was critical for program expansion.
Program Success and Recognition
The evaluators of CHAP’s initial 45-student cohort found that the program was extremely successful at helping students finish their degrees. According to TCC’s analysis, after two years:
- 60 percent of CHAP students graduated or remained enrolled, compared to 14 percent of unassisted homeless students.
- The CHAP students achieved a 3.05 average GPA, higher than the schoolwide average.
In addition to spurring expansion of the program, the outstanding results of the initial study won national recognition for CHAP. In 2018, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government named the CHAP program one of the 25 most innovative public initiatives of the year.
The nomination notes that CHAP allows THA to match its housing dollars with partners in a way that not only houses people, but help families succeed, and helps TCC and UWT fulfill their educational missions.
“We have housed students who are working parents, first generation or students who have been incarcerated,” Dr. Harrell said. “They express to us they could not have stayed in their college programs without the help of CHAP. Having secure housing gave students the opportunity to focus on their future. We are committed to continue the success of this program for our students.”