Last Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council passed Ordinance 28747 enacting a 1/10 of 1% sales tax (a dime for every $100 spent) to support affordable housing and behavioral health supports, including housing.
This Ordinance is projected to collect $4.5 million to $5.5 million annually. Of the funds collected, at least 60% must be used to construct affordable housing, mental and behavioral health-related facilities and/or funding the operations and maintenance of new affordable housing and facilities where housing-related programs are provided. The funds can also be used for operation, delivery or evaluation of mental and behavioral health treatment programs or housing-related services.
The funds must serve households earning less than 60% of the area median income and ($51,900 a year for a household of four) and the law focuses housing and services on veterans, senior citizens, people without homes, unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults, people with disabilities or domestic violence survivors.
Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity was supportive of this ordinance, with both staff and board members speaking in favor of passage, but our organization also understands the challenge of issuing additional taxes. As Habitat’s Director of Government Affairs, Jason Gauthier, noted last week, “An increase in sales tax will disproportionately impact so many of our residents, and many of the same members of the community that this ordinance seeks to serve.”
But local affordable housing investments, when properly leveraged, allow us to dramatically increase the available affordable housing development capital. Since 2008, the State of Washington has invested more than $600 million in the state’s Housing Trust Fund but projects in Pierce County have received less than 7% of those funds because of our lack of local affordable housing funding to attract outside investment.
Tacoma Habitat recognizes the need to increase and expedite the production of affordable and permanent supportive housing, and knows that this investment helps do that.
Habitat for Humanity was born out of a desire to help those in need, to offer a hand-up, and recognize the humanity in every member of our community. We view passage of this ordinance as an acknowledgement that we as a community will extend the compassion, empathy, grace, and assistance to recognize the humanity in each other and serve those most in need.
Photo courtesy of City of Tacoma (via Facebook)