City moves ahead to garner money for affordable housing

Budget effect for Auburn? Worth about $155,000 per year for the next 20 years

In the most recent legislative session, lawmakers in Olympia authorized cities and counties to capture a portion of already-collected sales tax and keep it.

To put toward affordable housing initiatives, lawmakers said, whether those be building new housing or contributing to efforts to preserve affordable housing that’s already out there.

Monday evening, the Auburn City Council voted twice to make it happen, first on a resolution expressing its intent to use the money, the second on an ordinance that actually allows it to use that money.

“I am very proud that the city is moving forward on this,” said Councilmember Larry Brown. “We have a critical issue with housing in this community and in the region, and I am glad to see that we’re taking advantage of this opportunity.”

State law requires that within the first six months of the legislation’s passage, cities and counties first adopt a resolution declaring what they intend to do with the money. Then, within an additional six months – that is, one year – from the effective date of the legislation, they must adopt an ordinance that formalizes their intentions.

Last week, Planning Director Jeff Tate informed council members that they could do both things at the same time. But, Tate added, it’s important that King and Pierce counties act first, because then, the sales tax capture within the region is more significant. If cities take action first, Tate said, the sales tax capture is less.

In fact, King County and Pierce counties had already taken action by the time the city of Tacoma did its part, but then Pierce County reversed what it had already done.

“It’s new legislation, so people are kind of figuring things out as they go, but I think the consensus is that the wise thing to do within each county is for the county to take action and then for the cities to take action,” Tate said last week.

The budget effect on the city will be worth about $155,000 per year for the next 20 years, and city staff recommended that the council vote on the resolution and the ordinance at Monday’s meeting.

“I think it’s a wise idea, it doesn’t cost our taxpayers anything, and it would be leaving money on the table for projects we are already doing,” said Councilmember John Holman.

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