Koz Development Teams Up With Tacoma Housing Authority On Affordable Housing For Students
Last fall, Kōz Development founder and owner Cathy Reines jumped at the chance to partner with Tacoma Housing Authority to build affordable housing for University of Washington Tacoma students. The project gives students more housing stability as they shape their futures.
“It has been a seamless process,” said Reines, who is currently working on another similar deal with THA.
The 104-unit Kōz on Market Street, which opened in January, has fully contained studios that average 260 SF. The building includes 52 units that are dedicated to affordable housing. Twenty-six of those units are for UWT students who were previously homeless.
Kōz Development set the market price at $905 a month. That price includes furnishing, WiFi and utilities. Tacoma Housing Authority subsidizes the difference between what the student pays and the market rate. The building is right across the street from UWT and is 500 feet from Tacoma’s Link Streetcar, helping ease transportation hurdles.
“THA’s main job is to provide or finance affordable housing for Tacoma residents who need help to afford a home,” THA Executive Director Michael Mirra said in a statement. “We especially seek to do this in a way that also helps them or their children succeed in school and helps Tacoma’s public schools and colleges educate low-income students. This is a very good use of a scarce THA housing dollar.”
Reines said this program is unique because once students qualify to live in the apartments they can stay for four years. For example, if a student moves in as a junior and then graduates two years later, the graduate can remain in the housing for another two years.
“I appreciate that it is intended to stabilize their lives,” she said. “That gives them a chance to establish a life that can take them into their future. Housing insecurity is such a burden for individuals. We often don’t realize how distracting that is on their lives. If you take that element away from their everyday challenges and just allow them to focus on their education or their health, it is life-changing.”
A 2014 survey done by UWT faculty found that 14% of their students were housing insecure, meaning that students were living in overcrowded apartments, struggled to pay rent and/or utilities or were homeless. A recent survey by The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice found that 36% of the 40,000 students surveyed were living in these conditions.
A survey conducted by the UWT Office of Student Advocacy and Support found that all students living in Kōz on Market Street experienced an improvement in their academic success. The survey results also showed that more than 76.2% of the students had an improved mental health status, 47.6% said they had a better sense of financial well being and 71.4% reported an overall positive improvement in the quality of their lives.
“This partnership between THA and a private developer is an important community investment in our students and their families,” UWT Chancellor Mark A. Pagano said in a statement.
Reines, who as a developer is passionate about providing affordable housing options, hopes other municipalities will use this program as a model.
“I think this could and should be utilized and replicated across the country,” she said. “We talk about homelessness as a nation on a regular basis. Being able to stay in a home for a set duration is an important component.”