King County Council approves sales-tax increase to fund supportive housing

Our area’s King County Councilmember Joe McDermott is the main sponsor of a one-tenth-of-one-percent sales-tax increase that the council approved today, first proposed in County Executive Dow Constantine‘s 2021-2022 budget plan. A council news release explains what it’s meant to pay for: “The legislation will provide permanent, supportive housing for those deemed ‘chronically homeless’ – people who reside in a place not meant for human habitation for at least a year, and with serious physical or behavioral health issues.” (That’s the type of housing provided in West Seattle by two nonprofits, Transitional Resources, with several buildings in the Luna Park area plus one under construction, and DESC, with Cottage Grove Commons in Delridge.)

The tax increase will not go to a public vote; the state Legislature voted earlier this year to allow local governments to increase sales taxes this way for affordable-housing. However, as The Seattle Times‘ report notes, cities have the option to levy their own 0.1% increase instead, and several King County cities have opted to do that, so they will have more of a say in how the housing dollars are spent. The council releass says that “King County plans to bond against future tax revenues and use the funds to buy existing hotels, motels and nursing homes around the county and convert them into affordable, supportive housing for people who have struggled to access and maintain housing.” The tax increase would take effect next January 1st; you can read the legislation starting on page 41 of today’s County Council meeting packet.

28 Replies to "King County Council approves sales-tax increase to fund supportive housing"

  • Taxpayer October 13, 2020 (10:54 pm)

    That’s a tax I don’t mind paying.

  • Chemist October 13, 2020 (11:03 pm)

    So this will put Seattle at 10.25% if the STBD renewal+increase at 0.15% is approved on the ballots?

    • WSB October 13, 2020 (11:52 pm)

      We pay 10.1 percent now. So this plus an approved STBD would put the rate at 10.35%.

  • Wsguy123 October 14, 2020 (2:28 am)

    So this will get homeless out of the woods and off the sidewalks in tents? I doubt it. Hope I’m wrong.

  • John W October 14, 2020 (6:06 am)

    A small increase in our taxes, a huge increase in our compassion and help for the homeless.

  • East Coast Cynic October 14, 2020 (7:28 am)

    How’s about some tax dollars for our crumbling infrastructure, in addition to the bridge?

  • heyalki October 14, 2020 (7:38 am)

    yeah cool, but over the years they keep raising taxes for this but is the problem getting any better?Someone please let me know if you have more insight, because I truly don’t know the real answer…from my perspective it seems to be getting worse all the time but I’m just one tax payer.

  • Taxed Out October 14, 2020 (7:45 am)

    Does this mean the City of Seattle has among the highest sales tax in the Country?  Asking for a friend. Interesting side note, does anyone remember when ‘they’ told us that privatizing liquor sales would mean prices (and taxes on liquor) would go down?  All of this while after almost 6 months SDOT and City of Seattle doesn’t know what caused the damage to the bridge, doesn’t have a plan on how to fix it, And needless to say has no idea how long it will take to fix it MUCH LESS how much it will cost. Tax away. Thank you, may I have another. 

    • WSB October 14, 2020 (10:46 am)

      One of the highest rates, yes. because the sales tax has to be used for things that would be funded by an income tax elsewhere. From this Tax Foundation page: “Sales taxes are just one part of the overall tax structure and should be considered in context. For example, Washington State has high sales taxes but no income tax, whereas Oregon has no sales tax but high income taxes.”

      • wscommuter October 14, 2020 (3:09 pm)

        Amen, WSB.  When will Washingtonians realize that our lack of an income tax means that we are regressively taxing poor folks at the expense of obtaining tax revenue from those of greater means (I include myself) who can afford to pay more?  I find it sadly ironic that typically the folks who complain about increases in the sales tax the most are conservative/anti-government folks who are equally adamant in their opposition to an income tax.  

        • John October 14, 2020 (5:04 pm)

          I grew up in Rhode Island. When the people complained about the high sales tax the state said an income tax or a lottery would enable them to lower the tax rate.The lottery got voted in.

          But since most of the money taken in paid for the salaries and advertising for the lottery it still wasn’t enough revenue.So a state income tax was passed by the legislature. Then a few years later the sales tax went back up. So hang tight. The same thing will happen here.

          That makes me a realist, not anti-government.

  • Anne October 14, 2020 (7:51 am)

    Wonder what “affordable “ means -hope we’ll learn more specifics about this.On the face of it -it sounds like a good idea-especially the “supportive” part -which I assume means access to services-perhaps the affordable means -what each resident is able to pay? If it means free-for how long?City & County government would go a long way towards establishing trust in their programs (for me anyway) by practicing accountability & transparency.let us know the specifics of theses programs that they are using our tax dollars to fund. 

    • WSB October 14, 2020 (10:43 am)

      I had hoped that including local examples of supportive housing would provide some context. Example: Our five-year followup on Cottage Grove Commons provides a look at how it’s operated:

      • anon October 14, 2020 (7:50 pm)

        And now it is 7 years after Cottage Grove Commons opened. It is a terrible place to live near. Constant screaming, drug dealing, threatening behavior from tenants, and near constant neighborhood disturbances. People yelling out of windows 24 hours a day.  DESC has failed to provide what they promised neighbors when the place was being built. Many of the residents need to be in an institution not housing…  Their “Good Neighbor Policy”? Total BS-  Neighborhood complaints only get lip service results. Watch out folks- this warehousing of troubled folks without services or doctors is the end of your peaceful neighborhood and your sanity.  Unfortunately all the bad things that people thought would happen… happen every day.

      • Anon October 14, 2020 (7:56 pm)

        SPD has stated that the Cottage Grove Commons building is the 2nd highest 911 response in West Seattle. The entirety of Westwood Village is #1.  

  • Mj October 14, 2020 (8:06 am)

    Per this AM’s Seattle Times, the tax provides bonding capacity of $400,000,000 and is expected to house 2,000 people.  This correlates into $200,000 per person.  

  • WSNative October 14, 2020 (9:04 am)

    “The tax increase will not go to a public vote”.  The taxpayers have no say in how their money is spent.  

  • Chris K October 14, 2020 (9:06 am)

    This small increase will go a long way toward helping others who need a hand.  I’m all for it.

    • John October 14, 2020 (11:25 am)

      It will certainly go a long way towards paying the agencies involved in the work.

      Probably one of many more taxes to come.

  • Rico October 14, 2020 (10:02 am)

    While this increase comes at the county level, Seattle revenues are up 67% since 2012. Population is up 17% over the same period. This is easily verified public information. Have a look at where the dollars are going. Utterly incompetent leadership and Pete Homes are the cause of many of the homeless related issues.If you lose your neighborhoods to crime and your parks to tent cities, you lose your city.  Its up to the leaders of this city to find a solution, and that solution should not require more tax payer money.   Clear the parks, enforce the laws, and find a safe place for the homeless.   Additional revenues do not seem to be the answer.   Seattle spends more per homeless person than any other city.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident October 14, 2020 (10:32 am)

    So this “small” increase will do more than the WELL OVER $1,000,000,000 that has been spent since in the ~15 YEARS after Ron Sims declared the 10 year “plan” to end homelessness in (iirc) 2005????

    How has that plan been going???

    Insanity is defined by doing the SAME thing repeatedly, and expecting different results.

    This is the epitome of that definition.

    We keep THROWING more, and MORE money at this, but the results have NEVER changed!!!  

  • Rumbo October 14, 2020 (11:05 am)

    Why not address the root problem of mental health? What good is housing if people are not mentally stable enough to live there and take care of it?

  • Foop October 14, 2020 (11:30 am)

    As much as I hate to say it, I’d rather see a less regressive tax like income. Sales tax disproportionately affects lower income.

  • Al October 14, 2020 (11:34 am)

    All for this! If we don’t create new housing options we can sweep the camps forever and they will just keep coming back. without free or affordable alternatives there’s just nowhere else to go. 

  • Kokopup October 14, 2020 (11:51 am)

    Seattle revenues are up 67% since 2012. Population is up 17% over the same period. This is easily verified public information. In addition, Seattle spends more per homeless person than any other city.Have a look at where the dollars are going. Utterly incompetent leadership and Pete Homes are the cause of these issues.If you lose your neighborhoods, you lose your city.  Its up to the leaders of this city to find a solution, and that solution should not require more tax payer money.   Clear the parks, enforce the laws, and find a safe place for the homeless.   

  • Wally October 14, 2020 (1:32 pm)

    They will mis-allocate this money too.  Until this group in charge has metrics and accountability for taking our money – I say stopping feeding these politicans- like an addict.  more they get the more they want.  Just another small increase……..

  • Mj October 14, 2020 (3:39 pm)

    Why not let the voter’s decide the issue?  

  • 1994 October 14, 2020 (8:41 pm)

    This new tax will be in addition to the current yearly $140,000,000 Seattle currently spends on the homeless? Time to try a new approach like Danny Westneat wrote (10/11 Seattle Times) about happening up in Vancouver BC where they are doing a study on providing direct funding to the homeless. Defund the homeless service providers!! and give the funds direct to the homeless who are screened & approved to receive direct funding, financial advise, along with mental health services already funded by their Medicaid coverage…..

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