Last week, the Chamber’s Executive Committee voted to endorse King County’s Health through Housing legislation. The legislation imposes a .1% sales tax increase to fund affordable housing including permanent supportive housing, and to support a regional approach to addressing chronic homelessness and creating additional affordable housing.
Health through Housing seeks to house 2,000 King County residents experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness within two years (by October 2022). To immediately provide emergency housing, King County would acquire single rooms, like hotels, and fund and operate supportive services to keep people successfully housed.
Over time, King County plans to convert single rooms used for emergency housing into permanent affordable housing while developing additional affordable housing by using revenue to guarantee bonds to make long-term investments. In addition to creating and operating permanently affordable homes with housing-related services, a portion of funding is also intended to build capacity at community-based organizations serving populations that are disproportionately likely to be chronically homeless.
King County Council passed the Health through Housing sales tax on October 13, 2020. However, several municipalities in King County (Bellevue, Covington, Issaquah, Kent, Maple Valley, North Bend, Renton, and Snoqualmie) passed their own sales tax to fund housing projects before King County Council passed Health through Housing.
Cities who pass their own sales tax must still apply their revenues to the same affordable housing and supportive services allowed under state law, but their collection of the sales tax revenue preempts King County’s collection of a sales tax increase in that jurisdiction. Health through Housing was initially projected to raise $65 million in 2021, but is now anticipated to raise only $50 million, with Bellevue accounting for $10 million of the reduction.
While King County Council has already passed the tax, decisions about short term spending and the implementation plan are still under consideration. Since the tax will be collected beginning on January 1, 2021, some spending decisions will be made through the County’s regular budget process, which is ongoing and scheduled to continue through November 17. The Regional Policy Committee (RPC) is scheduled to begin deliberations on the Implementation Plan, which outlines spending for 2022-2028 on November 4.