Truckee Town Council considers tax for affordable housing
Special to The Union
TRUCKEE— Truckee is moving closer toward a ballot measure to increase Transient Occupancy Taxes by 2%, generating an estimated $760,000 a year, in order to secure funding for affordable housing projects.
Based off an advisory committee’s recommendation, council members agreed on potentially placing a measure on the November ballot for a 2% increase in TOT that would be in place for 15 to 20 years, to be designated for affordable housing projects. However, the 18-member committee as well as Town Council could not agree on whether the tax should be a special tax or general tax.
A special tax requires two-thirds of the vote and must be used for its designated purpose while a general tax only needs a majority vote to pass and can be designated by the council for something other than affordable housing.
A general tax is “much more attainable if the council chose to pursue this matter,” said Ted Owens, former county supervisor and an advisory committee member, adding that it also has flexibility to address changing needs of the town.
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“It might be affordable housing today. It might be wildfires next year,” he said.
While a special tax “offers increased clarity and accountability to the voters,” Owens said it will be harder for the town to achieve.
While the committee did not reach a consensus, the majority was in favor of a special tax.
“The majority of the committee felt strongly that the funds and their use should be in the voters’ hands and not in the council’s hands,” he said.
Moving forward town staff will conduct more research, and potentially more polling, and decide at a later date on a special or general tax.
The committee reached consensus that the upcoming general election in November “presents the optimal timing” for the measure, according to Carolyn Wallace Dee, a former mayor who also sits on the committee. If the town moves forward with this timeline, council members would have to make a final decision to place it on the ballot by July 1.
As affordable housing is a priority of the town, Wallace Dee said “the committee felt that taking the issue to the voters in 2020, which would make the funding available in one year, would be preferable to waiting for future elections.”
The committee agreed the tax should be in place for 15 to 20 years.
“It should run long enough to show results on affordable housing projects,” said committee member Stephanie Olivieri. “If it’s going to fund affordable housing, we all know it takes a very long time to get that started.”
In May 2019, True North Research and Terris Barnes Walters Boignon Heath, firms specializing in research studies for public agencies, surveyed 616 Truckee voters that were likely to participate in the November 2020 election. In an open-ended survey question, voters were asked what they would want to change about Truckee to make the town a better place.
The most popular request by 20% of the voters was to provide affordable housing particularly for permanent residents. The results showed that 80% of the voters favored a 2% increase to Transient Occupancy Taxes.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union.
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