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King County unlocks $100M in new funding for affordable housing

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

King County on Wednesday, unlocked $100 million dollars of new funding without raising taxes.

The legislation allows the county to act on a state law that allows cities and counties to keep more sales tax money, if it goes toward affordable housing.

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“We’ve adopted the proposed ordinance investing $100 million in affordable housing over 20 years with no tax increase,” Council Chair Rod Dembowski said after the unanimous vote. “Magically … thank you Speaker Chopp and Legislature.”

“It comes to us by a state statute where the state, in their latest Legislative session, basically dedicated to counties and cities a portion of state sales tax to be used for this purpose,” Councilmember Claudia Balducci said.

Councilmember Balducci explained that the council moved quickly on approving the legislation because it requires the county to act before its cities can — in order to get full use of the money. Seattle recently passed a similar measure.

Councilmember and co-sponsor Jeanne Kohl-Welles said the funding is an important tool for the county in addressing affordable housing. She said it’ll be a challenge to find 244,000 new units (or preserve homes) by the year 2040, and 44,000 in the next five years. Those numbers were produced by the Regional Affordable Housing Task Force in 2018.

“We’ve had an increase in housing displacement, an increase in inequality, an increase in actual homelessness,” Kohl-Welles said.

Now, King County has to figure out how to spend the $100 million dollars.

KIRO Radio’s Jillian Raftery contributed to this report.

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