Legislature passes affordable housing legislation

Olympia—District 12 Senator Brad Hawkins and 12 other Republican senators voted against the bill HB 1070 meant to give more flexibility to local housing agencies and cities wanting to use local tax revenues to build or encourage affordable housing. They lost.

House Bill 1070 modifies allowed uses of local tax revenue for affordable housing and related services to include the acquisition and construction of affordable housing and facilities.

These GOP senators voted no: Brown, Dozier, Ericksen, Hawkins, Honeyford, McCune, Muzzall, Padden, Schoesler, Wagoner, Warnick, Wilson, J, and Wilson, L.

State Senator for District 12, Brad Hawkins, had this to say exclusively to NCW Media, “House Bill 1070 was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 56 to 42 and the Senate by a vote of 36 to 13. I voted “no” in the Senate. My understanding is that the bill expands a law approved a couple years ago related to city council or community votes on a local sales taxes for affordable housing services,” Hawkins said.

“While I’m opposed to many taxes, I do respect a community’s decision about its own local taxes and acknowledge the growing challenges in our state related to affordable housing. However, this bill expands the use of the original tax without requiring a local vote for those expanded purposes. The bill, for example, would add facilities providing housing-related services, mental-health facilities, buildings acquisitions, and land purchases. Much of the bill actually pertains to counties with a population of at least 1.5 million, so many sections do not impact our counties in North Central Washington,” said Hawkins.

“I do find it both ironic and sad that the state government continues to add regulations on land use, expand building codes, and mandate certain wage increases and then characterizes rising housing costs as a crisis. Housing costs are a result of many factors, but much of it is government’s own doing. As we prepare to pull out of this COVID pandemic – due to government’s past and ongoing closures of the economy – many hotels and business entities are essentially out of business. This bill would allow government to expand use of a tax to purchase those same buildings,” Hawkins said.

“These buildings that some mental-health and housing advocates want government to purchase once contained thriving businesses prior to the government’s shutdown. “There is something about that approach – government benefiting from the misfortune of businesses at no fault of the businesses – that does not seem right. It also does not seem right to implement a tax under one set of conditions and then expand or adjust it without a public vote, but government does that all the time,” he said.

“At some point, the tax burden on families is simply going to be too much.

I would be remiss if I did not emphasize the many tools the Legislature has provided to local governments and community organizations to help assist with local affordable housing challenges. The descriptions of the existing programs and the local flexibility available spans multiple pages,” Hawkins said.

“Local governments also have the bonding authority to raise substantial funds for affordable housing, but many local governments are unwilling to put those requests to a public vote. Therefore, I support the existing laws – many of which have been approved in recent years. I hope communities can make good use of that authority to meet their local needs,” concluded Hawkins.

Former Chelan Mayor Mike Cooney had this to say about House Bill 1070, which the State Senate Passed 36 to 13, mostly on partisan lines.

“I have been following “housing bills” this session and favor this use of local sales tax for affordable housing.”
He continued, “Certain communities are very desirable to live in or own a second home. The result of this influx puts the “locals” in a tough spot to buy their first home. We all need to realize that home ownership is a basic human need.”
He said, “Well, I could keep going, but won’t. We have made nice progress and will continue to do so! One last thought, a dwelling or roof over your head is not a partisan issue,” said Cooney, Executive Director, Chelan Valley Housing Trust.

Local Representative, Keith Goehner said, "I supported the bill because it allows cities and counties to develop higher density zones for additional housing opportunities. It is voluntary and redirects REET money for investment in local infrastructure enhancement. It may not work for all cities and counties but it gives local governments another tool to better utilize land and address housing shortages in a more affordable way." 

NCW Media Managing Editor Gary Bégin can be emailed: Gary@NCWMedia.net. Comments may be used as Letters to the Editor.

 

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