PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council approved a resolution to urge the Jefferson County commissioners to approve a one-tenth of 1 percent sales and use tax to support affordable housing projects.
The tax would add an additional $1 for every $1,000 purchase, which would bring in an estimated $600,000 annually for affordable housing projects.
The county commissioners rescheduled the public hearing for the new tax from Dec. 14 to Dec. 21 at 1:30 p.m. due to a technical glitch, they said.
City council members voted unanimously Monday to urge the commissioners to approve the new tax to address the current housing crisis after they listened to a presentation given by County Administrator Philip Morley.
The state Legislature approved the new tax as an 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 so they can move forward, Morley said.
“People are stymied. They are stuck at the shelter and at the transitional housing front because there is no inventory of entry level (housing),” Morley said.
“It essentially backs up the conveyor belt of people advancing and improving their quality of life and their station of life.”
One thing that was “shocking” to Morley during discussions with the five housing providers was 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, he said.
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 must go toward constructing affordable housing and facilities which provide 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 must serve people 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.
Jefferson County Reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].