PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners will conduct a public hearing Monday afternoon before deliberating on a new sales and use tax to benefit affordable housing projects.
If approved, the new tax would add a one-tenth of 1 percent tax on purchases to bring in some $600,000 annually for affordable housing projects.
One-tenth of one percent equates to $1 for every $1,000 purchase.
The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. Written comment can be submitted at [email protected]
The Port Townsend City Council members approved a letter urging the commissioners to approve the tax during its Dec. 7 meeting.
Through conversations with personnel from Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), Bayside Housing, Dove House, Habitat for Humanity for East Jefferson County and Peninsula Housing Authority, a strategy has been formed to create six to 10 affordable housing units annually if the tax is approved, County Administrator Philip Morley has said.
The state Legislature approved the new tax as a option for counties and cities.
The sales and use tax for affordable housing originally required voter approval, but under House Bill 1590, which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in March, the revenue source can be approved by the local legislative body by a simple majority vote, Morley said.
Jefferson County has been in a declared affordable housing crisis since 2017, and it has not improved since then, Morley said.
A large problem that was highlighted through conversations among county staff, Port Townsend city staff and housing providers was the need for affordable housing for people who are currently in transitional or shelter housing to be able to move forward, Morley said.
At the Port Townsend City Council meeting on Dec. 7, Morley said he learned during discussions with the housing providers that of the last 100 people that Bayside Housing & Services moved from transitional housing into permanent housing, only five were able to be placed in Jefferson County.
The other 95 had to move to Clallam or Kitsap counties or other places in the state, Morley said.
At least 60 percent of the revenue generated by the tax would be required to go toward constructing affordable housing and facilities providing housing services, constructing mental or behavioral health-related facilities, funding the operations and maintenance costs of new units of affordable housing and facilities where housing-related programs are provided or newly constructed evaluation and treatment centers, according to commission documents.
The services listed are for people living at or below 60 percent of the county median income who are either veterans, have a mental illness, are families with children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, are an unaccompanied homeless youth or young adults, are persons with a disability or are domestic violence survivors, the documents said.
The full proposed tax can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-BOCCnewtax.
Jefferson County Reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected]