Olson Building plan

The Olson Building on Commercial Avenue in Anacortes could serve as the future site of an affordable housing complex if a ballot measure to increase sales tax passes.

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ANACORTES — Voters in the city of Anacortes are approving a one-tenth of 1% sales tax increase to fund the construction of affordable housing, according to initial results from Tuesday night’s special election.

The ballot measure is being approved by about 56% of voters, with 2,749 in favor and 2,197 against, according to the Skagit County Elections Department.

The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

The one-tenth of 1% sales tax increase — and a corresponding sales tax credit from the state — would help fund $6.5 million in affordable housing, including the Anacortes Housing Authority’s renovation of the historic Olson Building and five new townhouses, and the Anacortes Family Center’s 25-unit complex with child care services.

“The community has an interest in supplying some more affordable housing, so that’s pretty amazing,” Brian Clark, the housing authority’s executive director said Tuesday night. “Of course I think it’s more amazing all the volunteers who took the time to make this thing happen.”

Proponents of the measure stated that the housing units would be affordable to those whose incomes are 60% or less of median family income in Anacortes. For a family of four, that is about $47,000 a year.

Affordable is defined as spending no more than 30% of one’s income on housing.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development estimates a third of Anacortes households pay more than 30% of their income for housing, and struggle to afford necessities such as food, clothing and transportation.

The city of Anacortes estimated in 2017 that it would need 971 new affordable units to meet what is projected to be the need in 2036.

Shay Schual-Berke, Anacortes Family Center board member, said the center is cautiously optimistic after Tuesday night’s early results.

“We would like to see numbers before celebrating, but we feel pretty good,” she said.

The sales tax increase amounts to an extra penny on $10 spent on taxable items. If the ballot measure passes, the tax increase would go into effect in July.

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

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