Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-2020


Affordable housing is a complex issue, requiring significant regional and metropolitan level attention. There are very few cities that can claim to have succeeded in solving this problem. However, the policy toolkit to engage with this particular challenge has grown over the last few decades. Given the diminishing role of the federal government in building and financing affordable/social housing, it has fallen to tribes, states, counties, and cities to tackle this challenge on their own or through collaboration. The State of Washington and Pierce County governments are no exception. Meanwhile, as the number of cost-burdened households has increased over time, the resources needed to tackle this problem at the local level have proven inadequate. For that reason, regional approaches and collaboration with for-profit and non-profit developers have become necessary. Furthermore, among the limited local sources of support for affordable housing developers, surplus land, multifamily tax exemptions and a variety of incentive zoning have become more frequently deployed to increase the number of affordable housing units. However, as this report will highlight, this has not been the case in our region.

To tackle this policy challenge, elected leaders from Pierce County governments, inclusive of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, met multiple times beginning in late 2018 to discuss the creation of a structured regional approach, resulting in the adoption of the “Act Now” initiative.1 As a part of this effort, it became important to conduct an environmental scan to determine 1) what affordable housing policies already exist within each jurisdiction in the County, 2) which ones are being used, and 3) what national best practices could potentially help integrate affordable housing policies with economic development (with the primary goal of increasing access to jobs).