City asks state leaders for funding to address needs

On the list: affordable housing, regulatory reform, help with higher cost of goods and services

Mayor Nancy Backus

Mayor Nancy Backus

Local governments in Washington state collect impact fees from new or proposed development projects to pay for all or part of the cost of providing them services like firefighting, schools, parks and streets.

But, Auburn leaders argue, it sure would “be ideal” if cities could collect those fees to cover the costs of providing them police services, too.

So Mayor Nancy Backus and members of the Auburn City Council told the Association of Washington Cities and state representatives at the yearly City Actions Days event in Olympia in late January.

“Aside from the opportunity to gather with our neighboring cities to discuss hot topics for the year,”Backus explained in her weekly update Feb. 3, “the event provides a chance to set aside time to talk one-on-one with our area representatives about how they can support our cities best.”

Impact fees for police services were just one item on a long list of priorities city leaders shared with legislators during those conversations.

Here are some of Auburn’s other asks:

Affordable housing: While Washington State Housing Finance Commission programs provide great incentives for affordable housing projects that hit the 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI) mark, city officials told lawmakers, there must be like incentives to hit deeper marks like 50 or 40 percent, because that is where the need is greatest.

City officials urged the state to dedicate funds to rehabilitate single- or multifamily units because it is far less expensive and environmentally sustainable to preserve housing stock that’s already out there than to build new housing stock.

“There are very few programs that help maintain older homes and multifamily complexes, which results in one of two outcomes: either older properties are maintained appropriately but the investment is reflected in increasing rental costs; or older properties are not maintained which helps keep rental costs down but at the cost of declining health and safety,” Backus wrote.

Regulatory reform: the city argued that several regulatory processes are a hindrance to bringing affordable housing projects to fruition. among them the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the National Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System (NPDES)

As Backus said in her update, “SEPA is an outdated and overly burdensome process that costs time and money,” the Growth Management Act and affordable housing objectives are at direct odds because the GMA limits supply, which increases costs, and the NPDES “adds significant cost to development, which is passed on to future owners or tenants.”

The city would also like lawmakers to lift the 1 percent property tax limit, as “current revenues are not enough to support growing community expectations and priorities, nor do they address the growing costs of goods and services,” Backus recorded.” Consequently, she continued, city tax structures cannot keep up with the traditional rate of inflation or actual growing costs.

“A lift of the percent property tax limit would have a significant impact on our ability to meet our community’s needs,” Backus wrote in her update.

The city likewise advocated for Streamlined Sales Tax (SST) mitigation, funding for the SCORE jail, operational funds for the Auburn Resource Center and to protect all of the sate funds that support local transportation projects.

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