Sunday, February 5, 2023
Feb. 5, 2023

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Vancouver looks to replace affordable housing property tax with Feb. 14 special election

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Vancouver’s main community resource to lessen its affordable housing challenges is nearing the end of its lifespan, leading city officials to ask residents to vote for its renewal.

Proposition 3 will appear on Vancouver residents’ ballot in the Feb. 14 special election and, if approved, would impose a tax levy of about 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed value for 10 years — collecting about $100 million total for the city’s Affordable Housing Fund over that period. The tax would cost $150 annually, or $12.50 monthly, for a home with a $500,000 assessed property valuation.

The tax would replace the city’s existing Affordable Housing Fund’s levy of 18 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The levy, which collects $6 million annually, is set to expire at the end of 2023.

The proposed levy would generate about $10 million annually.

Revenues from the levy would be dedicated to housing and housing services for low-income people. Specifically, city officials project the money will preserve or construct 2,400 affordable units, fund 550 shelter beds and provide 2,500 households with rental assistance and other services.

New affordable housing and preservation projects, which include home rehab and acquisition, are reserved for those earning 50 percent or less of area median income, said Samantha Whitley, city housing programs manager. Rental assistance and shelter services also fall under this income bracket. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported a two-person household in Clark County earning 50 percent AMI would earn $42,600 annually.

ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm working with the city, found Vancouver is becoming less affordable at a regular rate, surpassing average rents for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland. A main contributor to this strain is Vancouver’s low housing stock mixed with its limited production, something further drained by the city’s growth, said consultant Michael Wilkerson in late March.

To close Vancouver’s housing deficit within a decade, there must be an annual increase of 2,500 new units, including 750 new affordable housing units, according to a staff report. Developments must also place a greater emphasis on middle housing rather than investing in single-family homes.

The existing fund, launched in 2016, collected $42 million over seven years to support similar affordable housing initiatives. Over its lifespan, it contributed to the construction and preservation of more than 1,000 affordable housing units and rental assistance for 1,600 households. Multiple homelessness efforts, such as Vancouver’s Safe Stay Communities and shelter beds, benefited from the fund, according to staff.

Council members reviewed multiple levy scenarios before approving the proposed 30-cent amount — one of the more aggressive approaches under consideration.

“I think we go big and bold because it’s the crisis that we’re in and (the fund) is very favored by our community,” said Councilor Kim Harless.

Seniors and those with disabilities may qualify for a tax exemption as outlined in state laws. For more information about qualifications, visit or contact the Clark County Assessor’s Office. To determine your Vancouver residency, visit the city of Vancouver’s website.

Proposition 3 will be included on the special election ballot slated for Feb. 14. Military and overseas ballots will be mailed Jan. 13, and regular ballots will be available Jan. 27.

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