Tacoma’s Hilltop residents fight back against gentrification

TACOMA, Wash. -- Tacoma’s housing market continues to be one of the hottest in the nation, but with real estate booming some people can’t afford to stay in the community they’ve called home for decades.

Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood is home for Brendan Nelson. It's a place he knows well.

“We moved here in 1989 from Waco, Texas,” Nelson explained. “When I first came here, it was all about family and people being one in the community.”

Over the years that community has changed quite a bit, with businesses and people who have called the Hilltop home now being pushed out.

As Tacoma’s housing market grows faster than most cities across the country so does influx of new and wealthier residents.

I’m wondering in the next few years if I'm going to be able to afford to stay here,” said Nelson.

Brendan is President of The Hilltop Action Coalition, a group empowering the community with resources while working with city leaders like Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards to keep the Hilltop affordable.

The mayor says a once vacant building in the heart of the hilltop will now be turned into 200 affordable housing units.

The city is also offering more micro loans to keep businesses here, and homeowners can get home repair loans from the city at lower rates.

As for jobs, projects like the Link Light Rail will employ Hilltop locals.

“They have a greater sense of pride for the project,” Mayor Woodards explained. “It’s not something that was done to them. It was something done with them, and that’s the way we want these projects to be.”

The city has also partnered with Mercy Housing, an organization that builds affordable housing for seniors, with plans to add 70 more affordable units to the Hilltop neighborhood.

Brendan says he calls his hopes for the Hilltop Hilltopia, a place he won’t stop fighting for until it becomes a reality.

“This community cannot afford to be overlooked and overshadowed anymore,” said Nelson.