South Sound News

New homes priced below $300K coming to Tacoma for households making $75K or less

TACOMA, Wash. — Looking for a home for less than $300,000?

If your total household income is $75,000 or less, a new Tacoma neighborhood might be just for you.

The residential development, called "The Preserve," is coming to the Charlotte's Blueberry Park area of the city. It's one of the first high-profile salvos in bringing home prices back down to Earth in the metro area.

Green Harbor Communities, the Tacoma-based developers, is calling this “workforce housing.”

They also emphasize they’re not your typical developers.

This is the first project for cofounders Bill Rehe, a fisheries biologist and restoration ecologist, and Michael Pressnall, vice president of industry relations at

“This started with our two families,” Rehe told The News Tribune in a phone interview Tuesday. “I had this utopian idea about affordable, sustainable housing. I took Mike to lunch and he pulled out similar plans of his own.”

Here’s how it works: You’re eligible to apply to buy if your total household income is $75,000 or less and you work within 15 miles of the site, which is on D Street, between roughly 75th and 80th streets.

The homes will range from two bedrooms, one bath and 950 square feet for $230,000 to $240,000 to models that have three bedrooms, two baths and 1,250 square feet for $250,000 to $265,000.

The homes are owner-occupied but there’s a homeowners association lease hold over the properties once you buy.

The association signs a 99-year lease with the homeowner with an automatic renewal for another 99 years. This essentially locks down the purchase terms to keep the homes affordable.

You can pass the homes down to family members or sell, but new buyers face the same qualifying terms as the original buyers.

Rehe said they initially floated the idea with Gig Harbor.

It went nowhere.

Gig Harbor’s loss was Tacoma’s gain. Tacoma Public Schools was looking to sell some parcels south of Blueberry Park, a site tricky to develop with its wetlands.

“We had a friend who knew about Tacoma Public Schools property,” Rehe recalled. “It had been a blight and neighbors were up in arms so we went through process of purchase. We met with neighbors and City of Tacoma staff and got down to this idea of preserving the wetlands and to concentrate suststainable eco-friendly homes on less critical areas along D Street.”

Meetings ensued, and the district eventually sold the property to the developers for $427,500.

“Tacoma Public Schools could project no long-term school use for that site,” said Dan Voelpel, executive director of communications for the school system. “So we were pleased to find a buyer who will put the property to a positive use for the neighborhood that will be compatible with the community park next door.”

The plans call for a 30-acre development that preserves 22 acres of wetlands and develops the remaining acreage with between 50 to 70 small, two- and three-bedroom cottages.

The developers plan to have a 70 percent tree canopy, manage storm water on site and create “Learning Labs” and walking trails within the wetlands, according to its promotional material.

They also have the goal of becoming the first privately developed housing community in Tacoma to meet the LEED-Platinum standards for energy conservation and sustainabillity and would become the first LEED-Platinum certified housing community of single-family detached homes in the city.

The developers went through the city’s preapplication process and explained their plans for a housing development with a small footprint.

“More narrow roads and less impervious surfaces and more walking trails,” Rehe said.

The official groundbreaking was Dec. 1, with the site developers and City Councilman Chris Beale among those attending. Construction on site should start to take shape in January.

Those interested in buying a home can apply at You must be approved for financing and applicants will be considered on a first-come-first-served basis.

“We are selling the houses in a different way,” Rehe said. “Each size house will have a set price. Once a person or family qualifies (based on income and work location) and is qualified for lending, they will be given a tour of the site so they can select their location and house plan.

“There will not be bidding between buyers for a location or home. It will be first qualified, first buy for as long as we have inventory. This is just another tool to keep prices down.”

For more information

Green Harbor's Communities Facebook page is

FAQs about the property are at

More on the lease hold terms are at