The King County Council on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that allows the county to directly access approximately $100 million in funding for affordable housing over the next 20 years.
The legislation uses new authorization granted by the state Legislature in 2019 to receive a portion of the state’s sales and use tax for construction, operations and maintenance of new affordable housing serving persons with income at or below 60 percent area median income (AMI), according to a county news release. This funding that would otherwise have gone to the state general fund. There is no increase in the sales tax to consumers.
In addition to the county funding of $100 million, cities around the region are expected to take action to implement this new authority, according to the news release. Preliminary estimates indicate that combined the jurisdictions in King County will be able to invest over $200 million in affordable housing, permanent supportive housing, and rental assistance over the next 20 years.
Investments authorized by this legislation will be used to help meet the immense need in King County for more affordable housing. In 2018, The Regional Affordable Housing Task Force, a collaborative effort between King County and cities which was co-chaired by Councilmember Claudia Balducci, concluded that 244,000 new units of housing are needed in King County by 2040 to address the affordable housing crisis.
“With a need so great, it’s imperative that all levels of government work together to leverage this new funding into more affordable homes,” said County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, sponsor of the legislation. “I want to thank King County cities, notably the city of Seattle, who have partnered with us to ensure we can maximize the impact of this significant investment for homes over the next 20 years.”
“Despite a strong economy we still face significant challenges—including increasing income inequality, housing displacement and homelessness,” said County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Chair of the Health, Housing and Human Services Committee. “In order to stem the tide of people experiencing homelessness we have to maximize every available tool, in addition to addressing the root causes and systemic and institutional inequities that perpetuate this crisis.”
“Solving our area’s unprecedented housing crisis requires a series of smart, bold steps,” said Marty Kooistra, executive director of the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. “The state Legislature responded by creating a unique revenue pathway for cities and counties at a time when new options are very limited. And now the leadership of King County has stepped up with this critical decision to enact the ordinances necessary to retain a portion of state sales tax for the production and preservation of affordable housing. The social and economic benefits of this decision will be felt by families and entire communities in King County.”
South King County group
A new group called South King Housing and Homelessness Partners, a coalition formed by an interlocal agreement between the jurisdictions of Auburn, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Normandy Park, Renton, Tukwila, and King County, could look to use funds through the legislation.
The agreement for the new partnership allows for South King County jurisdictions to work together and share resources in order to effectively address affordable housing and homelessness, according to the group’s website. This collaborative model is based on similar approaches used in Snohomish County, East King County, and other areas of the country.
The purpose of the coalition is to increase the available options for South King County residents to access affordable housing and to preserve the existing affordable housing stock.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph is part of the executive board of South King Housing and Homelessness Partners. Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus is board chair.