Shop at local businesses, build local housing.
That’s the premise of legislation the Spokane City Council unanimously adopted Monday toredirect a portion of the state’s sales tax revenue into local affordable housing projects.
Now, a small percentage of each item or service a Spokane shopper purchases will be set aside for affordable housing, which is expected to add up to millions of dollars over the 20-year lifespan of the program.
The legislation does not impose a new tax on Spokane residents. Instead, it takes a cut of the existing sales tax destined for the state’s coffers and keeps the money in Spokane for local projects.
The program is legal thanks to a law adopted by the state legislature earlier this year.
From now on, the city will receive tax revenue totaling 0.0073 percent of every item sold in Spokane, which is projected to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Given the city’s current housing crisis, City Council President Ben Stuckart said the city could choose to bond off of the projected revenue over a 20-year period and obtain roughly $7.8 million upfront to immediately invest in affordable housing.
Or, he suggested, the city could partner with Spokane County, Spokane Valley and other local governments to pool their funding together for approximately $20 million.
“It would be better for all of us if we did one request for proposals for about $20 million out to the community than if we went separate,” Stuckart said.
Stuckart, whose term expires at the end of the year, said he hopes government leaders will come together in January and issue a joint request for proposals for new affordable housing. It will likely take two years for a project to come to fruition, he estimated, and would require additional funding sources.
Councilman Breean Beggs praised Stuckart for promoting collaboration with the city’s neighbors to better leverage funding through the program.
“It sets the tone for future regional collaboration on homelessness and other issues,” Beggs said.
Steve Corker, president of the Landlords Association of the Inland Northwest, praised the program. His organization has fought proposed tenant protection laws in Spokane and views the sales tax program as an appropriate way to respond to the housing crisis.
“This is an example of a program which attacks the causes and provides resources for the community,” Corker said, adding that it’s a measure that “unifies this region.”
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