Forks ordinance to retain state sales tax funds for housing

FORKS — A portion of existing state sales tax collected in Forks is now being retained and will be directed by the city toward addressing affordable housing needs in the near future.

Forks City Council members approved Ordinance 647 during a regular council meeting on March 9, and the ordinance went into effect March 14.

The ordinance was approved in response to Substitute House Bill 1406, co-sponsored by state Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) and Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) and passed by the state Legislature during the 2019 legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee last July.

SHB 1406 authorizes the governing body of a city or county to impose a local sales and use tax to acquire, construct or rehabilitate affordable housing or facilities providing supportive housing; fund operations and maintenance costs of affordable and supportive housing in cities of 100,000 or less; or, if eligible, provide rental assistance to tenants.

The statute requires cities such as Forks to adopt ordinances requesting the state Department of Revenue to retain sales tax funds and provide that funding back to those cities.

Under the statute, the city of Forks can only retain 0.00073 percent of sales and use taxes remitted to the state to address affordable housing and homeless issues.

“This is an option we can utilize that doesn’t raise existing taxes,” city of Forks Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck said. “Counties and other cities just have a little more revenue to draw from.”

City staffers have been told Forks could expect to distribute as little as $3,600 in the first year of fund retention to as much as $7,500 in the 20th year of retention — when the statute expires.

Discussions to date have focused on Forks retaining the funds initially. After the first full year of collection, the city may seek proposals from local providers to award all of the collected funds in any given year to the most cost- and socially-effective effort that would address the needs for which the funds were made available.

“We would wait and collect the first full year because we wouldn’t want to promise an organization $5,000 and only receive $3,500,” Fleck said.

“We will have to develop that application process as we get closer, but there are a handful of 501(c)(3) [nonprofits] that do that [work on affordable housing issues]. OlyCAP, North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network, Concerned Citizens and a few others.”

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].

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