Spokane City Council approves amended sales tax to pay for affordable housing projects

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council approved a sales tax that will go toward housing projects to help veterans, those who are disabled and people living with low income. But, there is a bit of a catch.

The approved sales tax would cost the average household in Spokane about $25 per year. It taxes up to 1/10th of a percent, meaning one penny on $10 spent.

Former City Council President Ben Stuckart has taken on a new leadership role at a local low-income housing organization. He laid out the desperate need for the funding at Monday night’s council meeting.

“We’ve all had rough conversations about homelessness for years in our community and you are tired of hearing about it, but it is real and it is getting worse,” Stuckart said.

The council agreed in a 6-1 vote, but there is a slight catch. The council voted to amend the measure and will now work with Mayor Nadine Woodward to find nearly $6 million elsewhere in the budget to avoid this sales tax.

They will have until April 1 to find that. If they do not, the sales tax would become official and go into effect on July 1. Though the council approved that, not everyone agreed.

“I don’t think we have $6 million a year laying under a rock,” said Councilman Michael Cathcart. “Otherwise, I’m pretty certain it would’ve been uncovered by now.”

The council’s finance chair, Candance Mumm, thinks they can find it. Councilwoman Karen Stratton, on the other hand, thinks the sudden change came too late in the discussion.

“If people lose their faith and trust in us, I don’t blame them,” Stratton said.

And Stuckart also thinks the city will not have much luck finding another avenue for that near $6 million.

“There are no other solutions except for local dollars to build more housing for low income folks,” Stuckart said.

Current City Council President Breean Begs said the three months the city is taking to find another avenue is not a drastic change for those needing affordable housing. He said the city was not planning on giving out any additional funds from the tax until 2022 anyway.