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King County raises sales tax in plan to create more homeless housing

The King County Council voted Tuesday to add a 0.1% sales tax expected to raise around $70 million a year to fund housing for people experiencing long-term homelessness.

When proposed by Executive Dow Constantine in September, the plan was hoped to raise more than five times as much funding in a regional approach to addressing the region’s ongoing homelessness crisis. Instead, cities like Issaquah and Bellevue moving quickly to opt out of the plan and implement their own taxes,

“By their vote today, the County Council moves our region one step closer to ending the trauma of homelessness for up to 2,000 individuals and families throughout our region who are living every day without the safety and dignity of a place to call home,” Constantine said following Tuesday’s vote. “With this initiative, we have a unique and extraordinary opportunity to make a real, observable difference in the crisis of homelessness, and I look forward to working throughout King County to make that happen.”

The original proposal included a $400 million bonding package that would have allowed the county to purchase hotels, motels and nursing homes for housing for around 2,000 people. It’s not clear how much of that goal the current taxing plan will be able to meet.

The county plan was formed after the state legislature earlier this year gave local governments the option to adopt a 1/10th of 1% sales tax increase if the funding was designated for affordable housing.

Across state and local authorities, sales tax in Seattle is currently 10.1%.


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13 thoughts on “King County raises sales tax in plan to create more homeless housing” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

      • I would have categorized housing for the homeless as primarily a mental health/public health outlay. It’s interesting that it gets bundled with the affordable housing here, and I’m surprised that’s allowed.

        IMO, the real problem is that too many commercial/retail buildings were approved and built. The B&O tax revenue is nice, but having so many new jobsites without a corresponding increase in housing means that only the highest paid workers will be able to afford to have a shorter commute. The cost of addressing this should be put on commercial property developers, not just medium and low wage workers, and we can solve it by either building more housing or making public transportation better (safer) and quicker.

  1. LOL @ “ending the trauma of homelessness for up to 2,000 individuals and families throughout our region who are living every day without the safety and dignity of a place to call home”

    That is a dream.

    I’m willing to bet serious money that we will have more homeless people in this city in 2025 than we have today.

    • I would agree.

      It’s clear that these people have good intentions, but they simply do not understand the nature of houselessness. All societies have and will have unhoused people for a multitude of reasons.

      We should have compassion, but we should also invest in things that give us exponential gains such as infrastructure instead of a persistent money-pit such as homelessness.

      Without a national plan or response, it will bleed resources in the regions that enable it such as ours. Disappointed in local government.

  2. What a disgrace. Income taxing is the ONLY way to not further impact the poor. Adding more sales taxes massively hurts the poor; just like property/car/etc taxes. Let’s just keep burying our heads in the sand, despite all the decades of research proving this is just another way to keep the poor getting poorer. For such a “progressive” city, we sure are proving how stupid we are. I’m embarrassed by these decisions. Wake up Seattleites!

    • Agreed. It is hard to see how this helps the problem when wages are too low for average working people and housing costs are too high because tech salaries include stock from the inflated market. I agree this only gets worse when we add taxes that hit the poorest the hardest. Glad they are trying but I cannot vote for more sales tax. We need an income tax at minimum to fund these initiatives but also to have a chance at solving our massive income inequality problem.

    • It’s not the *only* way. Be like water.

      E.g., commercial/retail property developers could support the creation of new housing space if they were able to pay an offset fee to someone who builds housing. In the current market, with little demand for new offices, this might be almost zero, but in a hot market you’d have a guarantee that no one is getting displaced.

      E.g., luxury goods tax.

      E.g., AirBnb displacement tax to build replacement housing.

      I’m disappointed in the decision to create a sales tax too, but I think the greater concern is that people who were able to cobble together enough to live precariously in a motel long term will find that option gone or more expensive once a bunch of the motels have been sold to the county.

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