Olson Building

Renovation of the historic Olson Building, at Commercial Avenue and between Second and Third streets in Anacortes, is one affordable housing project a proposed tax increase would help pay for.

ANACORTES — Anacortes voters will be asked in February to decide on a one-tenth of 1% sales tax increase to raise money for affordable housing.

The Anacortes City Council voted 5-0 Monday night on a resolution to put the tax increase on the Feb. 11 special election ballot. Two council members were absent.

The tax increase — combined with a sales tax credit from the state — would bring in about $654,000 a year for affordable housing, city Finance Director Steve Hoglund said last week.

The money would help pay for three projects: Anacortes Family Center’s proposed 20-unit affordable housing complex with child care on 26th Street, the Anacortes Housing Authority’s renovation of the Olson Building and the housing authority’s five-unit townhouse project.

Under state law, revenue from a sales tax enacted for housing and related services must be provided to households making at or below 60% of area median income, and who belong to any of the following population groups: persons with mental illness, veterans, seniors, homeless or at-risk of being homeless families with children, unaccompanied homeless youth or young adults, persons with disabilities, or domestic violence survivors.

If any of that tax money remains, it must be used for mental and behavioral health treatment programs or housing-related services, according to the law.

Anacortes Housing Authority Commissioner Susan Rooks told council members that affordable housing is defined as paying no more than 30% of household income on housing costs, which includes rent and utilities.

She said a family in Anacortes whose household income is about $47,000 (60% of area median income) could afford a monthly rent of $1,186.

Rooks said in Anacortes three-bedroom apartments rent for more than $1,700, according to Fair Market Rent values published each year by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

“If you are paying more than 30% of your income and making less than the median family income for your area, then you are probably struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

Anacortes resident Walter Guterbock also spoke in support of the measure, and said the increase was small — an extra $200 on a $200,000 boat, $40 on a $40,000 car and 10 cents on a $100 trip to the hardware store.

If voters reject the measure, Anacortes would still receive about $42,000 a year from the state in the sales tax credit.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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