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County Housing Trust Funds in Washington State

Organized and engaged: The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance supporters meet with State Representative Scott White during the 2010 legislative session.

Washington State has specifically structured its housing trust funds to encourage and support affordable housing efforts at the County level.  The State “Affordable Housing For All Account,” funded with document recording fees that now generate an estimated $45 million annually, is used to support operating and maintenance costs, with 60% of the fees collected directed to the county and the remaining 40% remitted to the state Department of Commerce.  Recent legislation expressly requires the state to use its share of these funds to provide housing and shelter for extremely low income families, defined as those with incomes below 30% of the area median income.   Counties can allocate funds to projects serving very low income households with incomes up to 50% of the area median; they are directed under HB 1359 to prioritize funding for housing activities that serve extremely low income families. Counties can use these funds to support acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of housing units, finance operating and maintenance expenses for affordable housing projects, provide rental assistance vouchers, and cover the operating costs of emergency shelters and licensed overnight youth shelters.

Recent legislation provides even more support to County efforts, with a new $8.00 surcharge to the recording fee (now totaling $38.00): 67% of the total surcharges, which is collected at the county level, are directed to the county for programs that “directly accomplish the goals of the county’s local homeless housing plan.” The remaining 33% of the fee are remitted to the state Department of Commerce to create the statewide homeless housing strategic plan, provide technical assistance to local governments, and fund and manage the Homeless Housing Grant Program.  The new $8 surcharge alone is estimated to bring in an additional $13 million annually.

These programs complement the state’s commitment of $130 million to affordable housing through the Housing Trust Fund capital allocations in the 2009/2011 biennium.

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