We’re just a few days away from 2022, and we’re looking back on what was accomplished in the advocacy arena in 2021.
The year started with a virtual legislative session where we, along with our state association—Habitat for Humanity of Washington State—worked on two priority items. SB 5287, a long overdue bill to update the state’s multi family property tax exemption law, and a budget request to fund a workgroup to examine and make administrative, legislative, and/or budgetary recommendations to the Legislature to address the racial disparities in homeownership rates. Working with longtime friend of Habitat, Senator Mona Das, we were able to ensure the creation of a new, 20 year property tax exemption for qualifying permanently affordable homeownership units in SB 5287 and amend the definition of “multiple unit buildings” to include more types of housing developments. We’ve already begun working on the local level to implement these changes.
With our other priority item, we worked in collaboration with Representative Jesse Johnson, Senator T’wina Nobles, and a coalition of stakeholders to develop and include a budget privos to fund a homeownership disparity workgroup. This workgroup, led by the Department of Commerce, began its work in August and is mandated to deliver recommendations to the Legislature by June 30, 2022. We look forward to collaborating with this workgroup and with the legislature in future sessions to see these recommendations put into action.
In the City of Tacoma we continued to advocate for growing opportunities for housing development via the Home in Tacoma project. We were excited to see phase 1 of Home in Tacoma—the land use vision phase—pass in December. We’ll continue our work on future phases of Home in Tacoma to ensure that Habitat and other affordable housing developers are able to maximize their current and future real estate holdings to provide critically needed affordable housing options in Tacoma.
In coordination with work on Home in Tacoma, we also worked with staff and Councilmember John Hines to update the City’s multi family property tax exemption (MFTE) program to align with updates made via SB 5287. This update included allowing the use of the new 20 year MFTE, and the expansion of areas eligible to utilize the 12 and 20 year MFTE. Habitat is working to identify potential properties in our current inventory that may be suitable for utilizing the 20 year tool and partnering with the City to streamline the administrative process to do so.
Our final highlight in the City of Tacoma is a $300,000 investment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for infrastructure improvements at our upcoming 8-unit townhome development in south Tacoma. Funding for affordable housing infrastructure work is often limited, although critical to ensure the timely creation of affordable housing. We applaud the City, and the behind the scenes work of Councilmembers Kristina Walker and Chris Beale, for ensuring this investment was made.
In the City of Lakewood, where we continue work in the Tillicum neighborhood, we are pleased that the City continues to make the re-development of this community a priority. In September, the Council—led by Councilmember Linda Farmer and Mayor Don Anderson—allocated $242,000 of its ARPA funds for infrastructure improvements for an upcoming development of 9 permanently affordable housing units in Tillicum. The ability to site 9 units on this parcel, and 2 on an adjacent parcel, is thanks to the work of City staff, Planning Commissioners, and Council to include a re-zoning amendment in its Comprehensive Plan for 2022. This alignment of vision and funding isn’t always the norm in local government. We applaud the City for its decade-long commitment to the Tillicum community and affordable housing development in Lakewood.
Our work with Pierce County seems to always be a highlight in the advocacy arena and 2021 was no different. In its ARPA and biennial budget funding rounds, we saw the Pierce County Council allocate $350,000 for housing counselor capacity—building to ensure local services are in place for residents to access more than $150,000,000 of state and local foreclosure assistance funding—and another $450,000 to fund construction efforts at our aforementioned Lakewood development in 2022. (Special thanks goes to Councilmember Ryan Mello for his work on the housing counselor allocation.) Collaborative funding is key to the success of affordable housing financing and development, and we’re happy to see our local governments working together to allocate the necessary resources.
That’s 2021 in a nutshell. Lots of work, emails and texts, and many conversations and many commitments from our partners across in Pierce County and across the state. Time to look forward to 2022…
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