Outrage over plan to convert $1 million Washington church property to affordable housing

A  plan to convert a century-old church into affordable housing for 18- to 26-year-olds has a Tacoma, Washington, community worried that their “family neighborhood” will be overrun with unwanted traffic, unruly youngsters, and empty “Monster cans.”

Andrew and Julie Cain, owners of Amici House in Port Orchard, purchased The Rock Revival Center in Tacoma’s North End neighborhood for $1 million in April 2021. They plan to convert the historic church, built in 1908, into affordable housing that will offer 11 shared rooms for roughly 40 to 50 tenants, according to KIRO 7 News.

Residents fear their little community will never be the same.

“I was looking for my death house, and now with Amici coming in, many of us are saying, ‘Maybe we can’t stay,’” said Jaen Elliot, who moved into the neighborhood in 2015 to be near her family.

“This is a family neighborhood,” she added.

According to Andrew Cain, drugs and alcohol will be banned from the building, which will be set up as communal living, and tenants will have to pass a full background check and participate in a mentorship program.

“One of the things we’ve heard in the last few years from the young adults is a need for community, a need for affordable living, and a need for our generation to invest back into them, and help them pursue their dreams,” he said. “As an educator by my profession, it just matches what I’m about.”

Residents will be encouraged to invest in the neighborhood as they pursue their “dreams and visions.”

“It’s an opportunity to give back to what was invested in us,” Cain said. “This is about just giving to those young adults who have dreams and visions, and supporting them and going after them.”

But not everyone is on board with the “vision.”

Elliot expressed concern for the neighborhood kids who often play outside.

“[T]hat traffic that’s going to come in can’t be good for kids on their bikes or walking or on their scooters,” she said.

Tyler Kolbo and his wife were married in the church and feel a special connection to the building.

“It was really special to us,” he told KIRO 7, “It was the start of a pretty amazing family.”

Banning drugs and booze inside the building could be bad for the neighborhood, he said.

“They’ll end up with lawn chairs in our front yard, smoking and drinking and leaving their Monster cans, instead of doing [it] on their property because they can’t,” Kolbo explained.

But, according to Cain, a residential director will ensure that their “core values” are upheld.

“There will be a residential director who will be on-site, who will be working with setting up the program,” he said. “It’s an intentional program that’s fostering up, ‘hey, these are our core values.’ If you’re going to live here, this is the expectation.”

Asked if non-compliant tenants will be shown the door, Cain said it is a possibility.

“If they’re not following the agreements, and it’s a congregate living, that could be the final outcome,” he said. “That process, we’re in the works of developing and we will develop with the resident director and with the first round of residents.”

Sharyn Hinchcliffe lives just one door down from the church, and she isn’t convinced.

“Frustrated,” she told KIRO 7. “For somebody like myself who has severe limitations on mobility, that’s a concern for me that I wouldn’t be able to park within 25 or 30 feet of my home.”

She, too, is concerned for the safety of the neighborhood children.

“So you got 18- to 26-year-old young adults that are trying to get on with their lives,” Hinchcliffe said. “There has to be a 100 percent guarantee to protect the children in this neighborhood and there’s a lot.”

Melissa Fine

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