Washington Community Outraged at Plan to Convert $1M Church Property into Affordable Housing

By: Georgia | Published: Feb 08, 2024

In Tacoma, Washington, a significant transformation is underway as Amici House, led by Andrew and Julie Cain, plans to convert the Rock Revival Center into affordable housing.

Purchased for $1 million in April 2021, this historic church, built in 1908, is envisioned to provide shared living spaces for 40 to 50 young adults aged 18 to 26. This proposal has sparked a mix of reactions within the North End neighborhood.

Community Response to Housing Project

The local community has expressed concerns regarding the impact of converting the church into housing. Neighbors are worried about the potential increase in traffic and its effect on parking availability.

A variety of cars, including a blue sedan, a silver hatchback, and a red compact car, parked in a line along a cobblestone street shaded by tall green trees

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They fear these changes might disrupt the neighborhood’s family-friendly atmosphere. “This is a family neighborhood,” one resident, Jean Elliot, said to KIRO 7 News.


Parking Concerns Among Residents

Parking and safety are at the forefront of neighborhood worries. Sharyn Hinchcliffe, who lives close to the proposed development, shared her frustration, particularly due to her mobility limitations.

View from a high vantage point beside a weathered brick building, overlooking a leafy street lined with parked cars and bicycles

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She told KIRO 7 News, “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.”

Safety Worries for Children in the Neighborhood

Safety for children is another significant concern raised by residents. The introduction of a younger demographic into the neighborhood, particularly individuals aged 18 to 26, has led some to worry about the potential risks to children’s safety.

Three young girls sit closely together on the ground, viewed from behind. The girl in the foreground is focused on her hands, while the other two have their heads close together

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“There has to be a 100 percent guarantee to protect the children in this neighborhood, and there’s a lot,” Hinchcliffe said, voicing the need for assurances against any negative influences the housing project might bring.

Traffic Increase Worries Local Residents

The potential increase in traffic due to the housing conversion has also been flagged as a concern for the safety and well-being of local children.

A young child with dark hair is seen riding a tricycle. The child is dressed in a long-sleeved, plaid dress and white sneakers

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Elliot, who has lived in the area since 2015, fears that the additional vehicles will endanger kids playing outside. “That traffic that’s going to come in can’t be good for kids on their bikes or walking or on their scooters,” she said.

The Cains' Vision for the Project

The Daily Mail reports that Julie Cain described the project as an opportunity for young people to start their lives in a supportive community environment. By preserving the church’s foundation and offering communal living spaces, they aim to provide an alternative to expensive leases and isolation.

A traditional white wooden church featuring a prominent bell tower topped with a cross, set against a clear blue sky with a backdrop of green trees

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“Your actual bedroom is smaller but then you could have so much more than a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment because we’ve got great common space,” Cain said.


Strict Rules for Tenants

Andrew Cain emphasized the project’s focus on communal living, with strict rules against drugs and alcohol on the premises. He mentioned the need among young adults for community, affordable living, and generational investment to help them pursue their dreams, The Daily Mail reveals.

A diverse trio of friends sits together against a colorful graffiti backdrop. A young woman with long black hair wearing a red jacket is laughing with a young man in an orange hoodie and black vest, who is smiling at her. Next to them, another young woman in a pink hoodie is holding a lollipop and smiling warmly

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“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 stated.


Local Skepticism about Policy Enforcement

Despite the Cains’ assurances, some locals remain skeptical about the enforcement of the no-drugs and no-alcohol policy.

A close-up image of a person's hands holding a can of Monster Energy drink. One hand is adorned with a tattoo of a classic sailing ship. The person is wearing a grey long-sleeved shirt and black pants

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Tyler Kolbo, who has a personal connection to the church, as it was his wedding venue, doubted the effectiveness of the policy, suggesting that it might lead to undesirable activities in neighboring properties. “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,” he said.


Background Checks and Mentorship Programs

Andrew Cain outlined additional measures to ensure the project’s success, including full background checks for potential tenants and a requirement to participate in a mentorship program, The Daily Mail reports.

A young man in a plaid shirt is gesturing with his hand while talking to two young women in front of a chain-link fence. One woman, wearing a green and navy sweater, is looking down and smiling, while the other, in a yellow sweater, is adjusting her sunglasses and turning towards her friends

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The aim is to foster a sense of investment in the neighborhood and support the young adults’ personal and professional development. “It’s an opportunity to give back to what was invested in us,” Cain said.


Implementation of a Residential Director

The Daily Mail explains that in order to ensure adherence to the project’s rules and values, a residential director will oversee the mentorship program and the living environment.

The interior of a modern church featuring a high, peaked ceiling with wooden beams converging towards a large, simple cross at the front. Below the cross is an altar flanked by tall candlesticks

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This role is crucial for maintaining the intended community spirit and ensuring that tenants who do not follow the rules will face expulsion.


Calls for Community Support

Julie Cain has addressed some of the backlash by stressing the importance of community support for the success of the project.

Four friends are standing close together, arms around each other, facing a sunset that bathes the landscape in a warm golden light

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“I think if we embrace them as a community, we will set them up for a successful career,” she said to The News Tribune, appealing for an open-minded approach to the housing initiative.


A Look Towards the Future

As the project moves forward, the Cains hope for community support, believing it will contribute to the success and integration of the young adults into the neighborhood.

A close-up image of several hands placed together in the center of a circle, symbolizing unity and teamwork. The hands are of different sizes and skin tones, and the people they belong to are wearing a variety of colorful knitted sweaters

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Julie Cain’s call for the community to “embrace” the young people reflects an optimistic view of the project’s potential to benefit both the new residents and the broader Tacoma community.