City aims to collect sales tax money for affordable housing

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.

With a few strings attached, naturally.

That is, said cities and counties would have to apply the money toward affordable housing initiatives, whether that be building new housing or contributing to efforts to preserve affordable housing that’s already out there.

Permanently.

According to Jeff Tate, director of planning for the city of Auburn, to set the machinery in motion, 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.

On Monday evening, Tate notified members of the Auburn City Council 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.

Tate said the budget impact on Auburn should be about $155,000 per year for 20 years, and city staff have recommended that the council vote on the resolution and the ordinance next Monday.

“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.

“This is one of the few items that has received press where constituents have come to me and said, ‘Can you explain this to me?’ And when I explained it to them, they kind of saw this as a no-brainer,” said Councilmember Largo Wales.

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