Snohomish County taskforce continuing efforts to address housing crisis

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers welcomes attendees to the release of the Snohomish County Housing Affordability Task Force (HART) final report in January 2020. (File photo by Larry Vogel)

The Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Taskforce (HART) is working to build upon the five-year plan and continue efforts to ease the housing crisis, the county said in an update Wednesday.

The task force, chaired by Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, met April 5, and HART members committed to continuing their regional collaboration and finding practical solutions to the significant challenges communities are facing.

HART released its report and five-year plan in January 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the region, and since then the costs of housing have continued to skyrocket, the county announcement noted. (See more in our related story here.)

“We can see the obvious impacts of the housing crisis across our urban and rural areas,” County Executive Somers said in the county update. “There is just not enough housing at all levels and as a region we must do more. HART will continue to work through policies, programs, and planning to do our part to bring some relief to our residents. This crisis is causing significant challenges to many, and through collaboration, we can begin to ease the burden. Our economy, environment, and quality of life depend on it.”

HART’s 2020 report and five-year plan made several recommendations for action, including:

    • Implementing the state sales tax shift to local governments to fund low-income housing;
    • Lobbying for changes in state and federal law to consolidate and streamline funding to support low-income housing;
    • Fostering community conversations about density;
    • Engaging private sector stakeholders in helping to find solutions to our housing affordability challenge; and
    • Confirming and supporting an ongoing structure for regional collaboration around production of housing across the entire income spectrum.

The Snohomish County Council in December 2021 voted 3-2 in favor of adopting a 0.1% sales and use tax countywide to fund more affordable housing and behaviorial health services. As of this month, the county is collecting $0.01 per $10 purchase.

County officials anticipate that in the next five years, the approximately $116 million raised through the new tax will support creation of a projected 300 new units of affordable housing. That would more than double the current production rate and increase the county’s total number of new affordable housing units to 522. The fund is also predicted to create at least 100 new units of bridge and permanent supportive housing which, when combined with other investments, could move up to 42% of all unsheltered residents off the streets and into safer places.

HART identified five goals for addressing housing affordability with suggested policy, regulatory, and funding strategies. You can view the full report at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/HARTReport.

 

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