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County pursuing its own sales tax for affordable housing

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Snohomish County’s government leaders are proposing to collect a special countywide 0.1% sales tax for affordable housing, which ultimately could benefit middle-income and low-income residents with more places to live.
The County Council can establish this special tax without needing to ask the public to vote on it, and a council majority appears intent to do so with the backing of County Executive Dave Somers.
It would add a penny to every taxable $10 purchase.
A public hearing will happen Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the County Council meeting on the tax proposal.
Two County Council members, Nate Nehring and Sam Low, said the tax should go to a public vote.
Whichever way, a 0.1% sales tax would generate about $23 million a year, the county said.
The money could help affordable housing nonprofits, such as Housing Hope, obtain a stable base of funding to use as a commitment payment to getting bank loans to construct housing projects.
A county press release says the money would give “critically needed funding” to “help support the creation of a projected 300 new units of affordable housing” by the year 2027. Those could house upward of 1,000 residents who today are struggling by market rent increases or being priced out.
State law also requires 40 percent of the money collected go to delivering mental health treatment services.
A tax is the only sustainable funding tool to building this housing to intercede on homelessness, County Council member Megan Dunn said last week.
Affordable housing buildings charge lower rents, or use Section 8 government assistance, to support income-restricted residents.
The Alliance for Housing Affordability group, which has city leaders and housing nonprofit officials
on its board, formally petitioned the County Council to create this sales tax
in fall 2020. It didn’t gain traction at the time.
Procedurally, Nehring said he did not like how the sales tax proposal suddenly arrived for a vote to implement when the council as a whole had not conducted extensive, previous discussions about creating the sales tax.
The City of Snohomish approved an affordable housing sales tax last month to benefit in-city projects. A county-level tax would not impact the city’s tax collection.


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City of Snohomish to collect sales tax for affordable housing

SNOHOMISH — The City Council unanimously approved creating a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase to go toward housing which is affordable to middle-income and low-income residents and for delivering mental health treatment services.

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