City Council Decides if Community Will Pay Higher Taxes for High-Quality Affordable Housing

The Snoqualmie City Council has a decision to make this year, one that impacts local residents’ tax bills, when they decide whether or not to grant Imagine Housing’s future 160-unit affordable income apartment development a property tax exemption.

Imagine Housing Andrew’s Glen community in Bellevue/Factoria.

Imagine Housing’s Timber Falls development in Snoqualmie would target households making less than 60% of King County’s median income, with their goal being to provide “a community where everyone has a safe and stable place to live.”

Many local residents showed up for the March 20th town hall meeting regarding the proposed project slated for the Eagle Point neighborhood of Snoqualmie Ridge.  Topics of the meeting included traffic impacts, police and fire service impacts and the potential property tax increase that would accompany a tax exemption for the project.

To date, Imagine Housing has not submitted their proposed project to the city council, nor has the council had much public conversation about it. Imagine Housing has, though, requested a waiver of building permit, planning and plan review fees totaling $435,000; a request that has not been approved by the city council yet.

Mayor Matt Larson, though, made it clear that Imagine Housing will also be requesting an 8-year property tax exemption in the near future.

The exemption, allowed by law for affordable income housing projects, would apply to all taxing jurisdictions, not just the City of Snoqualmie.  In addition to city taxes, the exemption would also apply to King County, port, library, schools and other taxing jurisdictions.

These jurisdictions would not lose funding, though.  To make up for the lost Imagine Housing revenue, taxpayers in all jurisdictions would pay slightly higher property taxes.  The increase for Snoqualmie residents would be about 5.1 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Valley resident not living within the Snoqualmie city limits (North Bend, Fall City, etc) would also see a slight increase amounting to 1.8 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.

If you own a Snoqualmie (city limits) home assessed at $300,000 or $400,000, your tax increase due to the exemption would be $15 or $20 per year for 8 years.  Live in North Bend? Your increase for the same valued homes would be about $5 and $7 per year for 8 years.

Mayor Larson explained that the mixed use master plan for Snoqualmie Ridge includes an affordable housing requirement (for sale and rental housing) with the goal of providing diverse housing options for all income groups in the community.

The Snoqualmie Ridge master plan includes building regulations which require high quality design, materials, landscaping, etc. that can drive up building costs – to a point of making affordable housing difficult to achieve in Snoqualmie Ridge.

According to Mayor Larson, “Imagine [Housing] is also proposing to provide costly on site support staffing/services to assure that the project is well-managed and supervised,” mitigating fears about crime, drugs, etc. often associated with large apartment complexes. Larson added,  “Without financial assistance, such services and oversight could not be provided.”

From the mayor’s perspective, the question then becomes, is it fair for residents to pay $5, $7, $15 or $20 annually (for 8 years) to bring high-quality affordable housing to the community for decades to come?  This is the question the Snoqualmie City Council will answer.

Councilwoman Maria Henriksen reminded me that the council does not yet have a formal proposal from Imagine Housing; that for her there are still unanswered questions; and the council will exhaust all of those questions before making a decision on a tax exemption.

For more information about Imagine Housing and affordable housing in Snoqualmie visit the city website.



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