Uptown Square is located off of South 320th Street. File photo

Uptown Square is located off of South 320th Street. File photo

Housing committee forms to implement affordable housing recommendations

The Affordable Housing Committee is made up of government and private organizations in King County.

Elected officials and private companies have formed a committee to examine ways to address a lack of affordable housing in King County following the release of a task force report late last year.

The Affordable Housing Committee held its first meeting on June 21. The meeting was attended by local government leaders as well as representatives from corporations like Microsoft and Puget Sound Sage. The committee is chartered for at least five years and will develop ways to create, preserve and enhance affordable and low-income housing in the county.

“There’s 100,000 families, working people, who are one bad incident, one broken down car, one injury away from losing their homes,” said committee member and King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci.

The committee will be working along several broad guidelines that range from increasing collaboration between local and regional organizations, preserving 44,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years, developing policies to ensure affordable housing near transit centers, supporting tenant protections and anti-displacement measures and encouraging housing growth and community outreach.

As outlined in the original report, the county needed 156,000 affordable homes in 2017 and an additional 244,000 affordable homes by 2040. The greatest need is housing for those earning 30 percent or less of the area median income (AMI).

“It’s also hard to develop housing at that level — it takes a lot of subsidy,” Balducci said.

The overarching goal of the committee is to eliminate cost burden, or spending more than one-third of a family’s income on housing, for those earning 80 percent below the AMI. Households making below 50 percent of the AMI will be a priority for the committee.

While much of the inaugural meeting was spent covering background information, members of the committee also wrote down their top priorities to be discussed at the next meeting on July 30. Following that meeting, the committee will meet every two months.

Another organization called the Housing Interjurisdictional Team will be created with up to 24 staff representing the county, cities, housing and transit agencies and community stakeholders which will provide information and local knowledge to the committee. While it is a public-private endeavor, committee business is subject to public disclosure requests and members were asked to use or copy their official county email when discussing relevant information.

City representatives at the meeting were also asked to return to their municipalities and see if local governments were interested in utilizing the recently approved HB 1406. It provides municipalities with a state sales tax credit to encourage investments in affordable and supportive housing. A portion of the sales taxes will be retained or a local levy can be created to fund affordable and supportive housing for people at or below 60 percent of the county median income.

Larger cities and counties can only spend funds on affordable and supportive housing while cities with populations less than 100,000 can additionally use those funds for rental assistance. Total revenue for all jurisdictions in the county, except Seattle, is projected to be more than $5.3 million.

Cities interested in using the new law have to adopt a resolution of intent by Jan. 28, 2020, and pass a full ordinance and impose a tax by the end of July 2020.

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