The Pierce County Council has approved a higher sales tax countywide to help pay for housing and other services for homeless persons.
The council voted March 21 in favor of the Maureen Howard Affordable Housing Act, or 2022-81s, which will implement a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase for affordable housing and related services. The earliest the tax can begin to be collected is July 1.
County officials said the financial impact on taxpayers will be 10 cents for every $100 spent on most purchases. The additional tax won’t apply to groceries, medicine, and certain medical supplies and hygiene products.
Officials said the tax increase will generate about $20 million in revenue per year, helping cover the annual pricetag of $150 million-plus for the county’s homeless response system. The county spends roughly $40 million a year now and needs another $117 million a year to fully fund the system in the next five years. Some of the money will be spent building 600 to 800 housing units each year.
State law requires the income generated from the sales tax increase to support programs and projects for people who at or below 60 percent of the median (mid-range) income of Pierce County residents and have behavioral health problems, are veterans or seniors, are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, unaccompanied homeless youth or young adults, disabled persons, or domestic violence survivors.
Council members said the county’s priorities for tax revenue include:
- Up to 30 percent will go to projects serving individuals with income below 30 percent of the area median income, and up to half of the funds will be spent on projects benefitting people with incomes between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income.
- Up to 20 percent will go toward housing-related services, behavioral health treatment facilities, and “related programs.”
“This revenue source will give us access to much needed resources to help those in need of an affordable place to live, including our veteran community and those fleeing abusive and often deadly situations at home,” said Councilman Ryan Mello.
Councilman Marty Campbell said “thousands of people” will be helped.
The Affordable Housing Act is named after Maureen Howard, a leading advocate for homeless persons. She died Jan. 5.