On a 5-2 vote during a marathon meeting that lasted more than six hours, the Pierce County Council passed a 1/10 of 1% sales tax increase — or one penny of every $10 purchased — to fund affordable housing. The tax hike is expected to raise about $20 million annually.
Pending Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s signature, the ordinance upping the tax — dubbed the “Maureen Howard Affordable Housing Act” — would go into effect on July 1. Howard, who passed away in January, was a tireless advocate for Tacoma and Pierce County’s homeless population.
Pierce County needs to spend an additional $117 million a year to fully fund the homeless crisis response system, according to the council’s Comprehensive Plan to End Homelessness that was passed last year.
“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,” council Chair Ryan Mello said. “This act will also help those who get up every day for work but simply can’t find affordable housing in Pierce County. This act will help build and preserve 600 to 800 affordable housing units every year in Pierce County.”
Mello and fellow council members Dave Morell, Marty Campbell, Jani Hitchen and Robyn Denson voted in favor of the ordinance. Council members Amy Cruver and Paul Herrera voted against.
A sales tax hike wasn’t the only action the council took related to homelessness.
The council also approved a pair of ordinances setting up the construction of a micro-housing village to shelter the chronically homeless.
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