Supporters of a proposed affordable housing property tax in Vancouver are launching their new “Bring Vancouver Home” campaign to advocate for passage of the levy, which they hope will be on November’s ballot.
The campaign’s message is to “ensure everyone in Vancouver has the opportunity to live in a safe, secure and healthy affordable home.”
The nonpartisan grass-roots effort will go door to door to educate voters on the “tremendous impact they can have in the lives of homeless school children, people with disabilities and the elderly by supporting this levy,” campaign manager Katie Archer stated in a press release.
The housing levy emerged as a top priority of the city’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which completed an exhaustive study of the housing crisis last year. On April 11, the city council declared an affordable housing emergency, paving the way to ask voters to pass an affordable housing property tax. However, the council has yet to take any other action, such as adopt a ballot resolution for the levy or decide when the levy should be placed on the ballot.
During Monday’s council workshop, city staff recommended a levy rate of 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property owners. The levy would cost the owner of a $250,000 home an extra $7.50 a month, or $90 a year. All of the money generated — $42 million over the seven-year life of the levy — would be used to support families earning a maximum of 50 percent of the area’s median income, which is $33,750 a year for a family of four. In Vancouver, 13,855 rental households fall into that category.
The revenue would be put into a fund for the buying, building and preservation of low-income rental housing and homelessness prevention in the form of rental assistance and housing services.
The city is holding a series of community informational sessions about the proposed affordable housing fund this month and in June, dates and times to be determined.
But levy advocates are ready to begin their campaign now.
“It should be possible for working families to afford housing and still have enough money for basics like groceries, gas and child care,” Andy Silver, executive director of Council for the Homeless, said in a press release. “Unfortunately, today we all know someone who is on the verge of homelessness because of rising rents. Together we can ensure all of our family, friends and neighbors can live in a safe, affordable home.”
The Vancouver and Evergreen school districts have more than 1,900 children who are in temporary housing or homeless, according to Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent John Deeder, co-chair of the campaign’s leadership committee.
“Children deserve a chance to succeed in school and in life, which all begins with their families being able to afford a decent place to live,” Deeder stated in the press release.
Stacey Graham, president and executive director for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, also co-chairs the leadership committee. Other notable members include philanthropist Steve Hansen, a retired Kiewit executive; philanthropist Jo Marie Hansen; Nancy Steiger, chief executive of PeaceHealth’s Columbia Network; Mark Matthias, owner of Beaches Restaurant and Bar; and Diana Avalos-Leos, vice president of Youth for Southwest Washington League of Latino American Citizens.
Campaign partners include Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, YWCA of Clark County, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, Healthy Living Collaborative, Columbia River Mental Health Services, Council for the Homeless, Share, and many churches, community groups and private citizens.
The campaign, which has a fundraising goal of $100,000, has drummed up more than $30,000 in contributions and in-kind donations so far. The money will be spent on campaign materials.
To contribute or learn more about Bring Vancouver Home, visit BringVancouverHome.com or visit its Facebook page, Bring Vancouver Home. The campaign is headquartered at 1401 C Street, Vancouver, WA 98660.