College Housing Assistance Program

Changes to the College Housing Assistance Program

Effective November 9, 2022: 

  • THA will no longer be accepting new CHAP participants. 
  • Current participants in CHAP will no longer be subject to time limits or lease renewal limits.
  • Current participants will no longer lose rental assistance if they graduate, reduce their course load, disenroll, or transfer to another school.

The College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) was a partnership between THA, Tacoma Community College (TCC), and the University of Washington at Tacoma (UW Tacoma). CHAP provided rental assistance to homeless and near homeless college students. 

THA provides or finances housing in three ways: 

  • We provide rental assistance to help pay rent on the private rental market.
  • We provide apartments we purchased near campus that prioritize students as units become available.
  • We sign long term contracts with private developments near the campuses to reserve apartments for homeless or near homeless college students. We pay down the rents to levels affordable to the students. 

The education partners manage program outreach, marketing, intake, referrals, and additional case management.


CHAP began in 2014 as a pilot program at TCC. TCC has a student population of nearly 14,000 students. It is the largest college in the South Puget Sound Region. In comparison to other colleges, TCC’s students are older, lower income, more likely to be parents, more likely to be working, and more likely to be their family’s first member to attend college. TCC is justifiably proud of the warm welcome it gives them. A TCC degree can transform their lives. 

Yet, a notable number of TCC students do not have stable housing. In 2019, Temple University’s Hope Center conducted a basic needs survey. 63% of TCC students responding to the survey reported serious housing insecurity within the 12 months prior to the survey; 23% reported that within those 12 months they experienced homelessness. It is hard to attend college without a stable place to live. The challenges are harder for homeless students who are also parents. Many homeless students are at risk of dropping out. Initial positive results from the pilot compelled THA to expand the program.  THA allocated 75 subsidies (vouchers) for students to rent on the private rental market. 

However, over the last few years, Tacoma’s housing and rental market has become increasingly exponentially more competitive. These changes brought about additional challenges for students trying to secure housing. In response, THA tested out an innovative approach to provide subsidized housing to students facing housing insecurity. We partnered with local developers to buy down the rents of their units and in return the units are set aside for students accepted into CHAP. These are known as property-based subsidies. This approach ensures that students have access to affordable units near the college without having to go through the THA application and housing search process. THA subsidizes nearly 200 units using this approach. This expansion also provided UW, Tacoma an opportunity to join CHAP. 

Impact & Evaluation

In 2017, the Hope Center partnered with CHAP to conduct an evaluation to measure program impacts on retention, post-secondary completion, and longer-term economic outcomes. The scope of the Hope Center report is limited to TCC students who received assistance to rent on the private rental market between 2017 and 2019.

The key takeaways from the initial report are as follows: 

  • Only one-quarter of students who were accepted into CHAP between 2017-2019 were able to secure housing on the private rental market using a THA subsidy. 
  • Students who were successful in leasing up were more likely to be older, have stronger academic profiles, and less likely to be Black/African American. 
  • At 6 months into the program, students who received assistance showed little difference in retention and GPA to those who did not receive assistance. 

Eager to explore if recent program changes would better support students, THA contracted with BERK Consulting to conduct research on how students were faring on the program and what barriers were impacting their ability to remain enrolled. 

The BERK evaluation highlighted a few barriers: 

  • Challenges in defining homelessness and near-homeless. Some students were not “homeless enough” while others were homeless but lacking financial resources to participate in the program (CHAP provides a fixed subsidy that is not intended to cover the full rental amount). 
  • For students who were unemployed or working part-time, low wage jobs, the fixed subsidy was not enough, and they struggled to lease up. 
  • Maintaining full-time enrollment was especially challenging for students with children and those working full-time to pay their portion of rent. 
  • Students of color and students with children were more likely to be removed from the program for not meeting program requirements. 
  • Students who are exiting from the program need greater supports to ensure they are not exiting CHAP and returning to homelessness. 

Sunsetting CHAP & Looking Ahead

Though THA has been responsive to program challenges, the recent Hope Center and BERK evaluations in addition to the impacts of COVID and increasingly challenging rental market led us to question the intent and impact of time limits and extra program requirements. As a result, we made the decision to discontinue the College Housing Assistance Program. Current participants in CHAP, will be able to maintain their rental assistance and will no longer be subject to time limits. By deepening our investment in households, we hope that when their assistance ends it’s because they no longer need our help.  

We are aware there are still students facing homelessness and housing insecurity. There are other resources available. In fact, many students have been more successful staying housed or finding housing with these resources compared to CHAP. If you or a classmate need housing resources, please contact the staff at your college.

Kiet Do
Tacoma Community College
Center for Student Advocacy and Multicultural Support
Roseann Martinez
University of Washington, Tacoma
Office of Student Advocacy & Support

If you are currently experiencing homelessness, please contact Coordinated Entry by dialing 211. 

Looking forward, THA is exploring how we can streamline access to post-secondary opportunities for our current households. In late 2021, THA signed on to support updated educational goals set by the Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS) – a highly qualified backbone organization well equipped to convene various community partners and anchor institutions. The updated goal is to get 70% of Tacoma Public Schools students earning a college degree, technical certificate, or gain a good-earning wage within six years of high school graduation.  

As the largest landlord in Tacoma, we have a unique role to play when it comes to connecting our households to post-secondary pathways. Additionally, we have 1,600 household members between the ages of 18 and 49 who have completed some college (67 credits on average) yet never earned a credential. The shift in how we see our role in the education space is one where we are striving to center our existing households and support their efforts to pursue a post-secondary education and/or pathways to build assets and achieve self-sufficiency.

THA Contact

Jess Thompson
Tacoma Housing Authority
Project Manager II – Policy, Innovation, and Evaluation