Reputation earns housing authority some latitude

Housing authorities in most cities don’t have the flexibility to try experiments such as the McCarver Program. They’re bound by strict U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development protocols that determine who gets assistance and how. In 2009, the Tacoma Housing Authority’s reputation for responsible management earned it some latitude from HUD. It’s currently one of 39 housing authorities in the country that are allowed to participate in a federal demonstration program called “Moving to Work.”

The Moving to Work program lets housing authorities come up with their own strategies for using federal grant funds more efficiently.

“The McCarver Program is an experiment to find out what influence we have and how to exercise it,” said Michael Mirra, director of the Tacoma Housing Authority.

Among other education-related ideas the Tacoma authority is trying out is a planned apartment complex in conjunction with the University of Washington Tacoma that will be specifically for single parents who are students at the university.

The housing complex, which would be part of the housing authority’s new Hillside Terrace development, would include communal child care.

“None of this would have been possible without Moving to Work,” Mirra said.