Students of McCarver Elementary school in Tacoma, Washington have high turnover rates, high poverty rates, and low levels of achievement, some of which can be attributed to difficulties in finding affordable housing. To address these compounding issues for families, the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) developed the McCarver Elementary School Special Housing Program. This program provides rental assistance for up to five years to 50 eligible families of McCarver kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. THA is a Moving To Work (MTW) agency and utilized its MTW flexibility to design an alternate rental assistance structure under its Housing Choice Voucher program.
Many partners came together to create this program, including the Tacoma School District; the Tacoma Housing Authority; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Pierce County, Building Changes, a community non-profit; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and community service providers. Early evaluation reports indicate that families who are enrolled have fewer student suspensions, higher school attendance, increased parental engagement, and student academic and behavioral progress.
THA offers this advice to other PHAs partnering with schools, “The McCarver Elementary School Project seeks to prove that by providing housing and supportive services to needy families it can improve school outcomes for their children and improve outcomes for the schools that serve its communities. Housing authorities should embed these strategies into their normal program operations as part of the appropriate mission of an alert and engaged public housing authority.”