Office of Jani Hitchen, Pierce County Council, District 6 announcement.
You might have heard that the Council will be looking at adopting the 1/10th of 1% sales tax to provide supports for residents in Pierce County needing help with housing and homelessness. This tax, which would only cost the average taxpayer an additional $16/year would generate ~$20M annually in desperately needed funding to address our affordable housing crisis. I helped sponsor this legislation and wanted to share my thoughts.
One of the many reasons we have increasing homelessness is the sheer lack of affordable units, both houses and shared units like duplexes and apartments. We funded a study last year to really see where we are as a county, and it was stated that we are short a predicted 137,000 units of housing for our current and proposed 20 year growth. More than half of those need to be affordable units. These are units for first time homeowners, seniors on fixed incomes and people that work low wage jobs or cannot work. “The Market” can’t even keep up with the number of average income homes needed, so they will not build at the lower end without incentives. Right now, we completely depend on state and federal dollars to do that work, and both are starting to look to us for solutions. We must contribute or the problem will continue to grow.
The second thought is around our homeless supports. Presently we spend millions through un-paid emergency room bills, emergency response and transportation, jail costs, behavioral health and criminal justice services to manage people that cycle through our broken system. We can do better if we have a place for them to go so that we can determine their needs and get them help.
You can follow this legislation Ordinance 2022-81 and find out when it will be heard in committee, be before the full Council and the processes to engage. There is also a sign-on letter if you believe this is something we should enact in our county. We need all the possible tools available to us so we can meet the growing lack of housing, especially affordable and supportive housing in Pierce County.