Tacoma’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an 18-month pilot project with the state Department of Corrections that would use a state rental voucher program to improve offender housing conditions and lessen impacts on neighborhoods.
Under the project — the first of its kind in Washington — the DOC would work with the city to set new housing standards for landlords to meet before they’re allowed to receive referrals of offenders who qualify for the voucher program.
Councilwoman Lauren Walker said the collaborative approach “can be a model for cities and counties” dealing with offender housing issues.
The city has limited authority over where offenders can live and, in the case of sex offenders, no authority, due to constitutional protections. In response to community concerns, city and DOC officials began meeting last year to look for ways to improve the system.
A 2009 law allows the state to provide $500 per month for up to three months so qualifying offenders can pay rent after being released from prison. Each offender must have an approved release plan to qualify.
More than 80 Tacoma landlords have registered with the city to house offenders using the voucher program. The city has received complaints that some participating properties aren’t well managed and some tenants have been evicted without cause, officials have said.
Among the pilot program’s terms, landlords must comply with housing standards and other regulations before receiving tenant referrals. The DOC also would conduct site compliance checks and require landlords to receive certification under Tacoma’s crime-free housing program.
The pilot will start 30 days after city and state officials sign the agreement, which should take a week to 10 days, assistant city manager Tansy Hayward said Tuesday.
The city will begin evaluating how the program’s working after six months, she added.