Tacoma housing growth sparks debate on accessory dwellings

TACOMA, Wash. -- With a population of 213,000 people in 2017, Tacoma’s growth has been exploding, and so has the issue of where to house everyone.

“Density and growth doesn’t have to be ugly,” said one woman at the Tacoma city council meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting focused on proposing changes to the city’s accessory dwelling units.

Right now, the city allows attached dwelling units like renting out attic space or basements, but proposed changes to those rules could mean homeowners would be able to build detached units in their backyard.

“Standards would be in place to reduce shading, privacy and impacts to the immediate neighbor,” said Elliot Barnett, a senior planner with the city who laid out the new proposals to the city council.

One of the proposed changes included the removal of the requirement for homeowners to live on site.

“I hate to see this become just an opportunity for out of town investors, and that’s what a lack of an owner occupant requirement could lead to,” said one woman who was for the accessory dwelling unit but wanted to keep the requirement for owners to live on site.

“I don’t want no Airbnb’s by me, and people going in and out all the time. I don’t want that,” said Heidi White, a 51 year resident of Tacoma who says she’s seen her home town evolve over decades but this change is one she is fighting for.

“It would make me feel like it’s too much, too many people knowing your business. It would bring more people, more problems, fighting and arguing,” said White.

She says she’s worked hard to own and live in a single dwelling home and wants to keep her quality of life.

The city council heard public comment Tuesday night. They will review those and consider next steps in March.

More detailed information on the proposed changes and the full rules can be found here.