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An impassioned Facebook post from Pierce County Councilmember Pam Roach, District 2, left some residents with questions and sparked an amendment to a proviso in the 2019 Pierce County Budget.

Roach took to Facebook on Sunday, Nov. 18, and posted a long status regarding a Pierce County Council amendment, which will consider tiny housing as a solution to the region’s affordable housing crisis. In her post, Roach claimed the tiny homes would be used to shelter homeless residents.

“There are no parameters,” Roach wrote. “How many homeless will live in each of these tiny, tiny homes? Will felons, sex offenders and drug users be eligible for housing? (This is public housing... cannot turn them down).”

Towards the end of her post Roach stated the county should “open the 700 empty jail cells for housing.”

“Let people get help there!” Roach wrote.

Roach encouraged Facebook users to call the county and make sure public comment is taken on the issue.

Roach’s post was shared on Facebook over 402 times and garnered over 138 comments with many people worrying about the possibility of living next to homeless housing and other criticizing the council woman for her choice of words.

“Thank you for your stand on this,” Puyallup resident Kathy Turner commented. “Without services, rules and a plan to help them out of homelessness the council is enabling them. Puyallup is dealing with that now on so many levels. Now this travesty in areas surrounding Puyallup will just make us more of a magnet.”

“Would you rather they be setting up tents and walking your neighborhood?” Local resident Cathy Paul commented. “At least they are giving them somewhat of a home to be proud of and better their situation which in turn could make them fell better about themselves and better their life.”

The post was shared on the popular Eatonville Facebook page “Eatonville Heads Up" by multiple Facebook users.

No tiny homes are being built in Pierce County anytime soon though, and instead a portion of the 2019 Pierce County Budget will be used to explore the idea.

Pierce County Councilmember Jim McCune, District 3, voted to approve the proposal, titled Ordinance No. 2018-77s2, which would adopt the county’s 2019 annual budget. The proposal was approved during the Nov. 13 regular county council meeting.

According to McCune’s office spokesperson, Amy Cruver, an amendment to Ordinance No. 2018-77s2 was approved at the Nov. 20 council meeting to help clear up some confusion on the matter.

In the proposal to adopt the budget, a proviso states $250,000 of appropriate budget funds will be utilized for a pilot program to establish a "tiny home" residential community in unincorporated Pierce County.

“Expenditures shall be related to predevelopment costs including permitting, site development or infrastructure construction necessary to facilitate development of the community,” the proposal states. “The tiny home community should be developed at a minimum residential density of 10 dwelling units per acre. One hundred percent of the homes will be available to low-income households earning less than 80 percent of the median income in Pierce County.”

Cruver said the amendment to the proviso passed during the Tuesday, Nov. 20, meeting will require the Pierce County Human Services Department to prepare a detailed report for the county council on how funds are allowed to be used before any money is spent on the pilot program.

“Intent is to explore options for low-income housing and learn if it is feasible for a developer, profit or non-profit, to invest in,” Cruver stated in an email to The Dispatch.

To be eligible for the proposed tiny homes, a family would have to make less than 80 percent of the county’s median income.

The median household income in Pierce County is $61,468, according to the U.S. Census website. Eighty percent of the median income would be $49,174.40 a year. 

Nowhere in the ordinance is a specific area of unincorporated Pierce County chosen for the proposed program, and rules around the housing will be created by the Human Services Department.

Roach said she views the change to the proviso as a "win-win" for her. 

Roach was not able to attend the Nov. 20 meeting since she was in Olympia, but said she would have likely voted "no" on the budget. 

The councilmember cited a lack of research into the feasibility of the program and the lack of parameters if the tiny homes were placed in unincorporated Pierce County. 

"I had a string of amendments (to the proviso) that the council said were not germane," Roach said. "I wanted it amended so it wouldn't allow sex offenders, drug users and to make sure the homes were near public transit."

According to a "fact sheet" written by Councilmember Derek Young, District 7, Roach's amendments would have changed land use code and would have put restrictions on a future, private development. 

"The amendments would have prohibited pets, restricted who could live in them, and mostly bizarrely, impose a curfew if the resident was unemployed," Young wrote. "Keep in mind, these are private residences in a private development."

Roach said if low-income tiny homes are created in the county, she would want to see them in industrial areas versus rural areas. 

"These people are the people who voted for Jim McCune, and are good people," Roach said. "And they worked hard to purchase land and build their home. And now they are going to put 10 tiny homes next to them? It will ruin property values." 

Roach said she kept referring to homeless residents instead of low-income because in the original proviso cited $200,000 from the "Homeless Employment Empowerment" fund. The current proviso does not state where the $250,000 will be allocated from. 

"What happened is I raised these issues," Roach said. "I complained and look at the changes." 

Roach said she will keep her eye on the proviso and the future study.

The council passed the 2019 Fiscal Year Pierce County Budget on Nov. 20.