Commissioners seeking input on new affordable housing sales tax increase

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, in Administration Building

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PORT ORCHARD — The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will take public testimony during its regular Dec. 13 business meeting on a proposed 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund construction of new affordable housing in county communities.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Kitsap County Administration Building, 619 Division St., in Port Orchard.

Commissioners said in a news release that the county is facing an affordable housing crisis that’s been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. They say population forecasts indicate the county and its jurisdictions will need approximately 25,150 new housing units of all types and prices through 2036 — or about 1,480 per year for the next 17 years.

Between 2010 and 2017, jurisdictions across Kitsap County produced only 3,600 new housing units or about 515 units per year, the commissioners stated. Housing production, they said, will need to almost triple to accommodate the expected necessary new housing units by 2036.

The 2020 Affordable Housing Recommendations Report, funded by Kitsap County and the City of Bremerton, highlights the critical need for more affordable housing for low-income individuals. The report can be accessed by searching on the county’s website search engine at kitsapgov.com.

The report noted that the county is experiencing strong job growth in line with equally strong national and regional economies. In 2018, total covered employment reached almost 90,000 jobs in Kitsap County, passing its pre-recession job peak of 84,400 jobs in 2015. The fastest-growing sectors have moderate to high wages, which is a sign of continued purchasing power for future housing demand, according to the report.

Kitsap County appears to be gaining households at higher income levels, classified as those earning more than $80,000 since 2010. Concurrently, the county has a deficit of rental housing appropriately priced for higher-income households. In the 2010-2017 time period, Kitsap had about 7,000 households earning more than the median family income of $77,119 for a family of four — but only 1,800 units that are affordably priced for those households.

This means these higher-income renter households are competing for available housing stock with lower-income households, which puts additional pressure on the availability for low-income households.

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