County moves to collect state money for housing

Island County is taking steps to use a new state program to help fund affordable housing.

In early August, the county commissioners are expected to sign a resolution of intent to adopt legislation authorizing the use of sales and use tax for acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing. The resolution does not create a new tax or raise current taxes.

The action is in response to state House Bill 1406, which was passed in the 2019 session and allows counties and cities to receive credit for taxes already paid to the state from within the county.

Commissioners will take action on the resolution, which is required by the new law, at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6.

It’s expected the county would receive about $176,000, Assistant Human Services Director Lynda Richards told commissioners at a work session earlier this month.

Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor can also receive funding from the state through the new law. It’s possible, however, for the county to collect money at a higher rate and distribute the funds through inter-local agreements with the municipalities, Richards said. These agreements haven’t been made yet.

Housing and services may only be provided to people and families who earn 60 percent of the area median income or less, according to the bill report. Island County’s median household income in 2018 was $59,961, according to state Office of Financial Management estimates.

The money can also go toward providing supportive housing to individuals with mental or behavioral health problems.

Commissioners said they looked forward to having another resource and revenue source to address the shortage of workforce housing in the county. Housing Resource Coordinator Joanne Pelant told the board that the vast majority of those seeking services through the county’s Housing Support Center come from the area and about 4 percent are from somewhere other than Island County, she said.

The county may start collecting funds 30 days after it adopts the tax credit program.

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