Levy for housing goes down; both advocates, foes say some solution to housing crunch is needed

PORT TOWNSEND — Voters in Jefferson County rejected Proposition 1, which would levy property tax to establish a fund for affordable housing, with a vote of just over 70 percent against in the initial count of ballots Tuesday.

In light of the defeat, both proponents and opponents say a solution to the housing crunch is still needed.

“We are of course disappointed and we still have a housing challenge,” said Bruce Cowan of Homes Now, the campaign for the measure.

“We’ll have to come up with another solution if this isn’t it.”

The measure would have created the Home Opportunity Fund, which would have been funded by a seven-year tax levy of 36 cents per $1,000. The fund would have been used to fund projects to build or maintain affordable housing in Jefferson County.

Jon Cooke, chair of the Jefferson County GOP, which ran the campaign against the measure, said changes should come from county government.

“If this really is an emergency, the commissioners need to modify regulations and building codes in our county that have been halting growth,” Cooke said.

Cooke said the proposed property tax increase would have hurt more people than it would have helped and that’s the message the campaign against it rallied around.

“It wasn’t a Republican/Democrat thing,” Cooke said. “We all came together to go against something we didn’t like.”

Cowan said there will need to be a solution in the future to provide housing for Jefferson County’s children, seniors and working people.

“Our housing challenge isn’t going away,” Cowan said. “This was a missed opportunity, but I know there will be a continued community focus on housing.”

Cowan said the best thing to do now is to continue to support local organizations that are “on the front lines” of the housing crisis. Among them, he said, are Bayside Housing and Services, Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, Community Outreach Association Shelter Team (COAST) and Olympic Community Action Programs.

As a county, Jefferson County voters were strongly against all the tax measures on the ballot. While Proposition 1 was the only county tax proposal proposition, voters in Jefferson County joined those in Clallam County and throughout the state in rejecting all three statewide measures on taxes.

The three tax measures were approved this year by the Democrat-controlled state House and the Republican-held state Senate and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The votes are advisory only; they don’t change the law either way.

The bills were enacted to help pay for Washington’s new two-year state operating budget and court-ordered K-12 school-funding plan.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].

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