Thurston County residents share overwhelming support for county-wide Home Fund

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More than 80 community members and organizations shared their support yesterday for the proposed county-wide Home Fund, which would add a 0.1 percent increase to sales taxes everywhere in Thurston County except in the city of Olympia, with funds earmarked for affordable housing.

During a special public hearing organized by the Board of County Commissioners, Thurston County Housing and Homeless Prevention Manager Tom Webster estimated the tax would generate $4.5 million per year. He noted that 60 percent of the new Home Fund would be used to acquire affordable housing, including emergency and transitional housing. It would also provide funding toward the establishment and operation of behavioral and health facilities.

Webster shared that the tax increase would benefit low-income individuals or those who earn 60 percent below the county median income. It will also prioritize individuals with disabilities or behavioral health disabilities, veterans, senior citizens, people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, and unaccompanied youth.

Since the City of Olympia has already implemented its own Home Fund program through a voter initiative, the city would be exempted from the tax increase.

Lacey and Tumwater officials weigh in 

In the discussion, several elected officials also came forward to express their support. Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet admitted that Tumwater also struggles with homelessness, although it might not be as visible as Olympia. “The County-wide sales tax will not only raise more money to address the issue, but it will also be more equitable.” In addition, the Mayor also asked the county to set a database to track and monitor all low-income housing units.

Lacey Councilmember Carolyn Cox also spoke, indicating that she was speaking in a personal capacity, and offered her personal support for the approval of the tax increase. She addressed homelessness as a “humanitarian crisis”. Cox believed, “we can buy build or rent spaces to house people, but without support, and for a significant number of the homeless population, that means mental health services, most will not be successful.”

Community Health Worker for Providence Medical Group, Arin Long also came to tell her personal story. Long shared she lost her home to a house fire in 2012. Later, she found herself living in a tent city, and struggling with addiction. Eventually, Long said that she was able to find permanent supportive housing in Olympia. “There I was able to get my life back together, I got clean off drugs, I addressed my mental health issue, my anxiety and paranoia subsided.” She testified that “permanent supportive housing with supportive services changed me and saved my life.”

Webster noted that 80 of 82 letters and messages received by the county expressed their support for the sales tax increase. He said that other organizations in favor  include; the Regional Housing Council, the City of Olympia, the League of Women Voters of Thurston County, the Thurston Climate Action Team, Housing Authority of Thurston County, Habitat for Humanity, Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties, and Catholic Community Services.

The commissioners are set to discuss the topic at their next work session.

Comments

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  • Panagringo

    I didn’t see any residents supporting it. Only organizations that support enabling the bums as usual. Throwing out money on overpriced projects.

    Thursday, November 25 Report this

  • JWulgaru

    The organizations that make it a business to suck up taxpayer money support it whereas the residents that will ultimately get fleeced are at their real jobs.

    Thursday, November 25 Report this

  • Deskandchairs

    Panagringo and JWulgaru are right on point!

    Thursday, November 25 Report this

  • Tractor1

    It is amazing that 80 responses constitute a majority of county residents. You want to fund it then you find a way that doesn't include adding to the current tax burden of the county residents.

    Develop a program based on, as our governor would say, science and facts then you might have a slim, very slim, chance to get public acceptance of your proposal.

    Friday, November 26 Report this

  • Joecas0811

    It's sad to see some of these comments calling people bums and wasted money. Arin Long saved me in so many ways she's a resident and the 80 people who voted are residents . The sad thing about the majority of the residents wanna sit around and judge everyone in this predicament when it happens to you like it did me then see who's looking for funding that's not there . But sit and do the math on all the wasted funds that's out there . Starting with the court process department of corrections etc etc . Believe me this is much needed Arin Long and myself have been there if you haven't been in our shoe's don't act or comment like you know what's best ...

    Friday, November 26 Report this

  • Panagringo

    The residents that showed up were probably family members that are trying to offload their burdens on taxpayers.

    Friday, November 26 Report this

  • Panagringo

    Joe as is right there is a lot of wasted money in court process and corrections need to bring gallows back. Send the criminals to 3rd world country jails to serve their time it will save a lot of money.

    Friday, November 26 Report this

  • TonyW33

    Remember that the homeless are US Citizens too. Our society, as most industrial societies still do, used to provide for the homeless with public housing, provide for the addicted with something other than wholesale incarceration and for the mentally with the appropriate level of care. We used to recognize that all citizens have constitutional rights. Also note that our democratically elected state legislature created the means for the governments of all counties to enact this supportive tax without a vote of county residents, recognizing that this is humanitarian crises. Note too that including the written and spoken comments there were at least 150 comments in support and a handful against. No more than 12 were from organizations, the rest from concerned individuals. If an individual citizen earns $80,000 a year and has disposable taxable expenditures of $24,000 (30% of income), then the tax would be $24.00 a year. Everyone that is financially unable to spend $24.00 annually to support these impacted citizens please raise your hand. Of course if your income is $50,000 a year, using the same formula, then the tax is $15.00 a year, three lattes. Incidentally, if a person is unable to pay this tax there is a mechanism to allow then to be exempted written into the law. End of rant.

    Friday, November 26 Report this

  • Panagringo

    150? Still not overwhelming unless there are only 160 residents in the county. And what’s going to happen with all the people that are flooding in from the southern border. Homelessness will get worse. Housing will get even more expensive.

    4 days ago Report this

  • Panagringo

    And 60% is going to overpriced housing. Where is the other 40% going?

    4 days ago Report this