On August 16, 1940, the Tacoma City Council votes to organize the Tacoma Housing Authority. Local housing agencies are part of a national program during the Great Depression to eliminate slums, provide low-income housing, and alleviate unemployment. During World War II, the Tacoma Housing Authority will build and manage housing for war workers and military families. After the war, the agency will manage Tacoma's stock of low-income housing.
During the Great Depression (1929-1939) poor housing for Americans impeded economic recovery. In 1937, Congress passed the United States Housing Act which provided for the creation of local public housing authorities to provide "decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings for families" (42 USC 1437) and to replace slums using Federal funds. The construction of the new housing provided employment.
In 1940, the U.S. began preparing for World War II and the new Tacoma Housing Authority elected to address the housing needs of growing military bases and defense industries instead of just low-income groups. When the U.S. entered the war in 1941, Tacoma's population exploded with war workers. Rents increased by 14 percent and vacancies dropped to zero.
As part of the war effort, the Tacoma Housing Authority built several large housing projects in Tacoma, the first and largest of which was Salishan. Lincoln Heights, American Lake Gardens, and Ruston Terrace followed. The agency also managed hotel and dormitory accommodations for war workers.