Ellensburg residents will vote on affordable housing ballot decision
ELLENSBURG, Wash.- In Ellensburg, the cost of rental housing is increasing and becoming more limited due to the city's population growth.
"We know by the vacancy rate that people are spending too much money, and people are spending what economists say is an unhealthy percentage of their income on housing," said Rich Elliot, Mayor of Ellensburg.
Elliot says a normal housing market should have a five percent vacancy rate, and Ellensburg's rate is .08%. Also a high percentage of the city's households spend about 30% of their income on housing cost.
"So what ends up happening is all of the rental occupancy gets full, that drives the price up, and then you end up with families spending a large percentage of their income on housing which isn't very healthy," said Elliot.
On their election ballot, there is a Proposition 1 decision which allows the community to decide whether they want to approve a .1% increase in sales tax for affordable housing projects. If the majority votes yes, for every $10 spent on any taxable item, one penny will be used to create more affordable housing for those in need in Ellensburg. People at or below 60% of the city's median income are qualified. Based on the city's 2017 tax revenue, the taxes would generate nearly half a million dollars a year if approved the the people.
"It's something that everyone should vote for, because we need a lot more affordable housing here. There's a lot of people that are out on the street, although you don't see them all, there here," said Katrina Willard, a resident in Ellensburg.
Elliott says that the money will help start the process of working with private developers and creating grant programs.
"The .1% doesn't generate enough money to solve the problem, but it generates enough money to begin to have the city participate in solving the problem with all of the other groups," said Elliot.