This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Housing authorities rarely make headlines. When they do, it’s rarely in a good way.
The Tacoma Housing Authority is proving itself the exception.
In recent years, the THA has been reinventing subsidized housing — radically reinventing it, compared with the standard entitlement model.
Federally funded housing authorities have traditionally passed out subsidies like the old welfare system, which had the perverse effect of subsidizing dependency among adults capable of working.
Starting with the welfare reforms of 1996, most heads of families were given a lifetime maximum of five years on public assistance. While on welfare, they were expected to actively seek work or train for jobs.
In contrast, the strings normally attached to federal housing funds have required local housing authorities to increase a family’s subsidies if its income goes down and cut if its income went up. As long as the household fits the formula, the subsidies don’t stop.
But housing authorities have a problem that federal welfare doesn’t: There is never enough money to help every family that can’t afford a decent place to live. The THA has a long line of applicants who commonly wait four or five years for housing assistance.
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