In light of the Snohomish County Council’s pending vote Wednesday on a proposed 0.1% sales tax increase to create affordable housing, Lynnwood Mayor-elect Christine Frizzell submitted the following letter to the county council, with permission to publish here.
Dear County Council Members:
HB 1590 “Allowing the local sales and use tax for affordable housing to be imposed by a councilmanic authority” was signed into law by Governor Inslee and took effect on June 11, 2020. To date this has been implemented in various municipalities in our region.
Without question, we are living in a time and place of unaffordable housing as well as a shortage of housing that is safe and livable. Living without stable housing for anyone is dangerous and debilitating, but even more so for our children. In the Edmonds School District alone there are hundreds of unhoused students and their families. We must take steps to curtail generational homelessness.
I have been an active volunteer and advocate in the homeless community for many years. I have witnessed the instability that homelessness, lack of social services, and broken connection to society have on the most vulnerable.
Men and women often need to work two or more jobs to afford housing in our area. Government has grappled with housing issues for years and has been seemingly content to allow nonprofit organizations to shoulder the burden of finding locations, funding, partnerships, and development. The best time to provide for affordable housing was likely 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
In the last three years, much time and effort has been put forward by the Snohomish County HART Committee as well as Lynnwood’s Housing Action Plan and Lynnwood City Council’s Housing Policy Committee. It is time to put those plans into action.
I am adamant about moving the issue of affordable housing out of the shadows and into the light of all our community. Seeing homeless men, women, and children in our parks, on our streets, and living in their cars is a constant reminder that we, as a society, have failed to provide for the most fragile in our community.
Obviously adding a new tax is never entered into lightly. Adding a .1% Sales Tax increase will cost taxpayers (in particular, those who are housed and more inclined to spend money on taxable items) an additional $1 on every $1,000 of purchases.
I ask that for every new housing unit created that long term services also be provided to those that need them. Services such as life skills classes, education, job training, mental health, physical health, and others are necessary to help heal the brokenness in our system. Simply putting a roof over someone’s head is NOT enough. We must provide ways for people to grow, prosper, and provide for themselves and their families and thereby move out of homelessness and into stable and safe living.
I further ask that the cities whose sales tax base are the greatest contributors to this tax have representation on the board that will be governing these funds. Businesses in our city generate these funds and city representatives should have a voice at the table as to how they are to be appropriated.
I support your vote to implement HB 1590 in Snohomish County and hope that you consider my comments as you put HB 1590 into effect.
Mayor-Elect, City of Lynnwood