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Ridgefield ordinance to fund affordable housing

The Ridgefield City Council has agreed to provide annual funding for affordable housing, taking advantage of a new state law.

The council unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday to create a city sales and use tax credit against the state’s share of sales tax revenue collected in Ridgefield. City officials expect that the credit will generate $22,098 annually for the next 20 years for affordable housing and rental assistance.

Last year, the Legislature passed SHB 1406, facilitating the new revenue stream for local municipalities. It will not result in higher sales and use taxes for Ridgefield residents, according to city staff.

“This is strictly about if we want to adopt the ordinance so the funding comes through the city, so we have a say in how it is used,” city Finance Director Kirk Johnson said.

The law also allows cities with populations under 100,000 people to use the revenue for rental assistance to tenants making at or below 60 percent of the median city income — about $56,000, according to Johnson.

The median value of owner-occupied housing units in the city is $369,700, and the median gross rent is $1,467, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Local governments have until July 27 to decide whether to adopt the credit. Vancouver and Clark County have adopted similar ordinances, and the Washougal City Council is scheduled to consider one at its meeting Monday.

Ridgefield now has three options for the revenue. It can administer its own grant program for affordable housing, pass the funds to a nonprofit organization or enter into an interlocal agreement with other local governments to create a shared program. (For its part, the county is considering sending the funds to the Vancouver Housing Authority.)

If Ridgefield creates its own program, it risks creating administrative costs — required to come from its general fund — that outweigh the benefits of the credit, according to staff. The city Community Development Department would also need to refocus some of its efforts toward the program.

“Right now, I think we should just receive it and wait and see what programs would become available,” Councilor Sandra Day said.

Mayor Don Stose said that Habitat for Humanity is exploring projects in Ridgefield and that it could be an option as a nonprofit partner.


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