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New program encourages downtown living

The concept is simple. Employees are encouraged to live close to work with an incentive package offered by their employer, lenders, Realtors and additional community parties. Employees can save thousands of dollars on closing costs and down payments, while employers can save on parking costs, while increasing retention, improving community relations and offering a great benefit.

With more than 23,000 new jobs and 16,000 new residents expected in downtown Tacoma in the next 20 years[1], we know we need to accommodate growth with transportation strategies beyond additional roads and parking stalls. And the solution does not need to be exclusively about buses, walking and bicycles. Where people choose to live significantly influences their transportation choices, their daily activity of getting to work, and the vibrancy of their lives and our downtown.

While roads and transit agencies are doing what they can to anticipate and accommodate growth, the private sector can help too – and benefit from the results. By assisting employees buy or rent homes close to work or transit, employers help reduce the long commutes that contribute not only to traffic congestion, dependence on foreign oil, air pollution, and time away from family, but also to employee stress and fatigue.

Employer-assisted housing is the term used to describe programs in which employers are investing in housing for the local workforce. Live Downtown is modeled on the employer-assisted housing concept with the focus being downtown Tacoma. As the convener, Downtown On the Go engages downtown Tacoma businesses in a partnership with banks, lenders, Realtors and other partners to retain and recruit employees, maintain a competitive workforce, improve community relations, and revitalize downtown Tacoma.

In 2010, Downtown On the Go brought together stakeholders from the transportation, housing and business sectors to talk about the feasibility of a program like this in Tacoma and the result was enthusiastic support. Today, Downtown On the Go houses the Live Downtown Pilot Program, promoting it to employers, bringing together incentive-providing partners, and benchmarking and evaluating progress. Currently, we partner with HomeStreet Bank, who offers robust incentives to those interested in purchasing, while O’Connor and Associates offers incentives to rent downtown. Learn more about incentives on our downtown living page.

The program goal

The goal of the Live Downtown Pilot Program is two-fold:

  • Build residential density in downtown Tacoma, thereby increasing the economic development potential of Tacoma and the success of downtown businesses.
  • Bring people closer to their workplaces to increase use in transit, biking and walking in downtown Tacoma and to mitigate the negative impacts of long commutes.

Within two years, the Live Downtown Pilot Program has a goal of partnering with at least five employers, expanding our partnership list to offer a variety of incentives, and all parties working together to incentivize at least 25 employees to live within the boundaries of downtown Tacoma.

Learn more  about the program and our current partners on our downtown living page or contact Kristina Walker at 253-682-1739 or kristinaw@tacomachamber.org.

[1] Puget Sound Regional Council’s growth projections, 2010

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