Snohomish County approves sales tax increase for affordable housing effort
Mukilteo's rate will be 10.6%, tied for the highest in the state
Last updated 12/21/2021 at 10:52am
The Snohomish County Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to increase the sales tax rate by 0.1% in order to fund more affordable housing in the county.
Collection of the 0.1% ($0.01 per $10 purchase) will start in April 2022. The 10.6% sales tax rate in Mukilteo will be the highest in the state along with Lynnwood, Bothell, and Mill Creek. A change in state law in 2020 allows local governments to raise sales taxes by 0.1% for affordable housing and services without sending the tax to a public vote.
Voting for the sales tax increase were Council chair Stephanie Wright, Vice Chair Megan Dunn, and Councilmember Jared Mead. Opposed were Councilmembers Nate Nehring and Sam Low.
By approving the sales tax increase, the county will support the creation of a projected 300 new units of affordable housing over the next five years, more than doubling the current production rate and increasing the total new affordable housing units to 522. It would also create at least 100 new units of bridge and permanent supportive housing which, when combined with other investments in process, could bring 42% of all unsheltered residents off the streets and into safer places.
Mukilteo Mayor-elect Joe Marine and Councilmember Riaz Khan were among 50 public officials to sign a letter to Snohomish County executive Dave Somers and the Snohomish County Council asking them not to enact the proposed 0.1% sales tax increase.
The writers said they “have grave concerns regarding the proposed councilmanic increase to the countywide sales and use tax for affordable housing. While we share the desire to address affordable housing issues in our county, the process, as it stands is irresponsible and will erode trust with our shared constituents.”
Among those signing were Woodway Mayor Mike Quinn; Mill Creek Councilmembers Vince Cavaleri, Mark Bond, and Connie Allison; Lynnwood councilmembers George Hurst, Jim Smith, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, Patricia Decker, Ruth Ross, and Shannon Sessions; and Brier Mayor Dale Kaemingk.
“A sales tax to produce affordable housing is counterintuitive and will only further burden residents in Snohomish County. Sales tax is one of the most regressive forms of taxation, creating a disproportionate impact on low- and middle-income families,” the letter stated.
“I am proud to support this effort to address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing stock,” Dunn said. “There are families across the county who are suffering because the skyrocketing housing costs and lack of housing options have left them without shelter or living in precarious situations. We can start to make a difference with these investments.”
The following counties and cities in Washington have already authorized 0.1 percent sales tax for affordable housing, including Jefferson, King, Skagit, Spokane, Whatcom Counties, and the Cities of Anacortes, Ellensburg, Olympia, Port Angeles, Poulsbo, Tacoma, and East Wenatchee/Wenatchee.
This authorization in Snohomish County is expected to raise approximately $116 million over five years for investments in affordable housing.
“Today’s decision is one of many actions we are taking to address the housing affordability crisis and homelessness,” Wright said. “The housing crisis is an overwhelming burden for too many Snohomish County residents, and we must take action now to help those who are struggling. These strategies will help stabilize families, get people off the streets, and provide the services they so desperately need. Public safety and the health of our community require these bold steps.”
“Housing affordability is negatively impacting people across the economic spectrum in Snohomish County,” Mead said. “This is a modest and sensible approach to the crisis that is facing too many families. If we act now with the urgency this crisis demands, we can begin to make progress. Doing nothing would be easier but also leave us with problems that become even more difficult to solve.”
“The Council has shown real leadership today, and I’m looking forward to working with them, our community, city, and tribal partners to ensure these finds are fairly and equitably spent to address the needs of our residents throughout the county,” Somers said. “No one can deny that there is a housing affordability crisis, and no one can argue against the need to take bold action. We cannot allow this crisis to further erode our economy, our environment, and the health of our community. We will now begin to make a difference.”
Any proposed spending on affordable housing, shelter, and behavioral health projects resulting from this authorization will be coordinated with cities and towns, as well as the Snohomish County Housing and Community Development Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Policy Advisory Board (PAB). These bodies have representatives from impacted communities, cities, towns, and housing experts.