Several members of the Vancouver City Council said at their meeting Monday night that they’re ready to move forward with a proposed affordable housing fund.
The council will vote next week on whether or not to put the fund on the November ballot.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said at the council’s meeting that the city isn’t getting the state or federal financial assistance it has in the past when it comes to addressing housing.
“Frankly we have very little alternative as a local community,” he said. “The funding of these sorts of programs to support the most vulnerable in our community continues to be cut at the federal level.”
Leavitt said it’s an opportunity for the community to decide what expectations it has for how all residents in the city live.
“This avenue is a way that we’re going to look in the mirror as a community and decide if — and to what level and how much — we’re going to support those that need broader community support,” he said.
Vancouver declared an affordable housing emergency April 11. The city’s rental vacancy rate has been below 2 percent for months, well below the national average. At the same time, Vancouver’s experienced some of the steepest rental rate increases in the country.
Residents in Vancouver would be voting to increase their property taxes for the next seven years to pay for the $42 million housing fund. Both Bellingham, Washington, and Seattle have passed similar measures.
According to the Vancouver officials, a house assessed at $250,000 would pay an additional $90 per year in property taxes. Landlords have raise concerns about the tax, arguing they’d rather see the city invest time in attracting higher paying jobs to the area.
Councilmember Alishia Topper, a strong proponent of the fund, said this is one of the few things the city can do to address affordable housing.
“We can’t put rent caps or rent control on landlords because the state doesn’t allow it,” she said. “We don’t have the option to go out for a sales tax because we don’t have the legal authority by the state of Washington. And we don’t have any other option in our tool kit to deal with those individuals who are severely cost burdened.”
Some city council members said Monday they would like to see Vancouver’s business community play a larger role in helping the city address affordable housing.