By Jim McCune
Pierce County's Third Council District is the fastest-growing district in the county. With that growth are increased costs for infrastructure.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) authorizes impact fees, one-time charges on new homes, earmarked to pay for increased demands on local parks, schools and traffic. Often portrayed as developer costs, impact fees are construction costs added into the purchase price.
According to a 2016 study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), impact fees and other growth regulations account for 25 percent of the price of a new home (sales tax is on top of that). It is estimated that for every $1,000 increase in the price of a home, 600 young adults or families are eliminated from qualifying to purchase a home at a given price point.
On May 1, 2017, the county's park impact fee jumps from $385 to $1,107 per residential dwelling unit; on Jan. 1, 2018, to $1,830; and July 1, 2018, to $2,552. Also added is a 3 percent administrative fee.
The park impact fee was passed by the County Council without my vote. It will deter over 1,000 families from the benefits of home ownership and deny the district the benefits of the revenue generated by its purchase.
I'm a big fan of parks, but I'm a bigger fan of prioritizing responsible fees, taxes and spending.
Impact fees per new home are over $9,000 (school $3,330; traffic $3,359, highest in county; parks $2,552). When financed in a 30 year, 4 percent mortgage, those one-time fees become $15,882 ($44/month; $6,641 interest). With so many extra costs, young couples saving for a dream home to start a family or those who serve in the military seeking roots find that dream virtually impossible, unless they can find subsidized housing.
Answers by progressive thinkers believe subsidies are fair, but that approach is unsustainable. We are running out of taxpayers to pay for subsidies.
Neighborhoods with home ownership have less crime. The county should be highly sensitive to the costs of owning a home and implement policies to increase affordability, not deter it.
For additional details about impact fees in general, visit MRSC.org (the website for Municipal Research and Services Center).
Jim McCune is a Pierce County Council member from the district that includes Eatonville, Graham and other parts of south Pierce County.