Nobody wants to live in these apartments, in the sense that nobody wants to be abused or controlled by a partner.
Once constructed, the seven-floor apartment complex will shelter 54 domestic violence victims and their families.
“They are often coming in with nothing — literally the clothes on their back. Maybe a small bag,” said YWCA Pierce County CEO Miriam Barnett.
There’s a rub, though.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
“Our housing project is caught up in a political quagmire,” Barnett said.
To get funding for the $21 million project, state lawmakers must pass the state capital budget by Wednesday (Jan. 17.)
The state budget includes federal money for construction projects such as the YWCA’s Tacoma apartments and affordable housing for veterans in South King County.
In all, funding for projects across the state — primarily for homeless families — could stand to lose out if the budget doesn’t pass, Barnett said.
Without it, she said, the YWCA can’t apply for $10 million in tax credits for the $21 million project. Three quarters of the units would house families that would otherwise be homeless, even if they were not victims of domestic violence.
“We don’t have a project without that,” she said of the tax credits.
Barnett said she also wants to raise $5 million from private donors, but doesn’t feel right doing that with the development’s future in such a precarious spot.
“Since I’ve known this I haven’t been able to, in good conscience, continue to raise money,” she said.
The YWCA’s existing emergency shelter can house 22 families, but after 90 days, state law says, they must move out, Barnett said. It also has 23 units throughout the county, which are managed by the Pierce County Housing Authority. People tend to stay about 2 1/2 years.
Still, the YWCA is turning away more people each month than ever before.
It averaged 420 rejections each month last year, though some calls might be duplicates. Two years ago, the average was 295. Four years ago, it averaged 138 a month.
“We can’t call people back because it’s not safe,” Barnett said. “Sometimes if we know we have a family in a potentially fatal or lethal situation, we will pay for them to be in a confidential hotel.”
Last year that amounted to about 50 hotel nights at nearly $7,000.
Without the space, she said, “sometimes they go back to the abuser.”
The proposed 54-unit building in Tacoma’s St. Helens neighborhood would have views of Commencement Bay and the Tacoma Tideflats.
“We will have a rooftop garden because the views are stunning,” Barnett said.
If the budget doesn’t pass in time, Barnett said, the project will be waylaid another year. By then, interest rates could climb and the value of tax credits could drop. Construction costs are rising as well.
“If we have to wait another year, we might not be able to do the project,” she said. “For every five cents (tax credits) go down, we lose half a million dollars from our project. We’ve lost $1 million (out of the project) already.”
It’s possible YWCA will have to cancel the project if the state budget doesn’t pass, she said.
To get help
Controlled or abused by your partner? The YWCA Pierce County can help.
24-hour crisis line: 253-383-2593 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal services: 253-365-6352
YWCA Pierce County office: 253-272-4181 or email@example.com