Yakima City Hall 2.jpg

FILE — The council chamber at Yakima City Hall is pictured on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Yakima, Wash.

The Yakima City Council will discuss the possibility of a new sales tax dedicated to affordable housing when it meets later this month.

The council voted to draft an ordinance that would implement an affordable housing sales tax in the city. A bill passed by the Legislature in the spring, House Bill 1070, allows the use of local tax for affordable housing and related services.

The tax would be one-tenth of 1%, meaning people would pay one penny for every $10 spent on taxable goods.

Housing vacancy rates in Yakima are less than 1%, according to the Housing Action Plan produced by the city in June. About 36% of all households in Yakima are cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, the report said.

Council member Soneya Lund said the tax would provide consistent, locally controlled funds to address the housing crisis in Yakima. If passed, the tax would generate about $2 million annually for affordable housing, she said.

Yakima Neighborhood Health Services CEO Rhonda Hauff spoke in favor of the tax during public comment.

“No amount of health care can substitute for stable housing,” Hauff said. “We can attest to the improved health outcomes when a person has stable housing.”

The motion to draft the ordinance passed 3-1, with Lund, Brad Hill and Kay Funk voting in favor. Mayor Patricia Byers voted no. She said she would not vote yes because the tax has not gone before voters.

Council member Eliana Macias attended the meeting, which was held via Zoom, but was not present for the vote. Council members Holly Cousens and Jason White were absent.

The council’s next meeting is on Sept. 21.

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