Moved by the plight of residents of the Tiki Apartments, Tacoma City Council has passed a temporary ordinance extending the notice for certain types of evictions from 20 to 90 days. This would cover a change in the use of a dwelling, demolition or major renovation. The longer period would not cover other reasons for eviction, such as failure to pay rent. The ordinance will sunset on Sept. 30, in order to give the council time to craft a longer-range policy.
Residents of the complex, located on South 12th Street near State Route 16, received eviction notices after it was purchased by CWD Investments LLC. During an emergency meeting on April 26 to discuss the situation, Councilmember Keith Blocker said the new owner had been contacted and agreed to give Tiki tenants until the end of June to move. The new owner’s offer of relocation assistance will stay on the table, with those leaving by the end of May offered $900 and those at the end of June $600. Blocker brought up his own experiences with homelessness in his youth. “This issue hits homes to me.”
The meeting drew many Tiki residents, as well as others concerned about their plight. Dr. James Williams noted the “grave shortage” of affordable housing, especially for the disabled Tiki residents. “Their rights and needs were not being addressed,” he said. “With the housing market the way it is, there will be more Tiki Apartments.”
Sarah Howe, a Tiki resident who is blind and in a wheelchair, said she wants to live independently and not in an assisted living facility. “What do people in my situation do?” she asked the council. Brian Skiffington suggested council members help residents move. “To me, that would be a show of solidarity with these people.”
“You cannot hear their stories and not feel it,” said Amy Tower, a community organizer with Tenants Union of Washington. “It may be legal but it is wrong,” she said of the pending eviction.
The council decided to pay United Way of Pierce County to provide case management for Tiki residents in their quest for new housing.
The city has scheduled two public forums on the topic of affordable housing. The first will take place May 8 from 6-8 p.m. at Peace Community Center, 2106 S. Cushman Ave. The second will be on May 12 from 4-6 p.m. at Blix Elementary School, 1302 E. 38th St. Members of the public are invited to share their experiences surrounding this issue.