WALLA WALLA:  Considering using sales tax for housing

WALLA WALLA: Considering using sales tax for housing

The Walla Walla City Council will consider a resolution authorizing its intent to file for sharing of sales tax funding for housing investments when it meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. Also on the agenda is considering extending the interim zoning ordinance designating camping areas in the heavy industrial zone.

The state of Washington has approved local revenue sharing programs for local governments by providing a local sales and use tax credit against the state sales tax for housing investments, depending on the imposition of other local taxes and whether Walla Walla County takes advantage.

The tax credit is in place for up to 20 years and can be used for acquiring, rehabilitating, or building affordable or supportive housing; operations and maintenance of new affordable or supportive housing facilities; and rental assistance for cities with a population below 10,000.

At this point, city staff does not believe that the state revenue sharing of sales tax can be used to support operations of the city’s Sleeping Center. Staff further points out that the local sales tax authority is a credit against the state sales tax, so it does not increase the sales tax for the consumer.

In order to meet the tight timelines to access this funding source, the council must pass a resolution of intent by January 31, 2020, and the tax ordinance must then be adopted by July 27, 2020, to qualify for the credit. If the city does not implement a qualifying tax by the deadline, it can still participate in the program if it meets the other deadlines. If that’s the case, Walla Walla would be eligible for a lower credit rate.

The Council will also consider extending the interim zoning ordinance permitting designated camping areas in the heavy industrial zone. That ordinance was adopted a year ago for a one-year duration. During that year, the Sleeping Center relocated to 1181 W. Rees Avenue and opened this year on April 26. A land-use permit was issued for the designated camping area at the new facility located in December 2018, with no appeals filed.

However, city staff requests additional time to work on a permanent land-use approach and proposes submitting a comprehensive plan map amendment and rezone application when the application window opens in 2020 and likely need to extend the interim zoning ordinance again while the comprehensive map amendment and rezone application is processed.