The City of Leavenworth is looking at ways to support affordable housing for its workforce.

A new law lets rural counties use existing local sales tax dollars for affordable housing, but Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea wants to use a portion of local lodging tax money for the same purpose.

Florea says the state as a whole does a poor job with affordable housing.

"There's only two counties in the state, they're both in the southeast, of only a few thousand people, where a median income person can afford a median priced home," Florea said.

He says state law allows cities to use their lodging tax money for affordable housing under certain circumstances.

Florea said the state legislature initially let King County use lodging tax money for affordable housing, as long as it was for people with an income level at or below 80 percent of the county median income. The lodging tax money was used to pay off bonds that were issued to finance the housing.

Florea said the legislature expanded the program in 2015 to allow the lodging tax to be spread to affordable housing in any city within a half mile of a transit stop.

Most of Leavenworth has Link Transit stops within a half mile.

Mayor Florea says he plans to look further into the use of lodging tax money to support affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the new law authored by 12th District State Senator Brad Hawkins expands the use of the rural counties’ public facilities sales and use tax, also known as .09 funds, to include affordable workforce housing.

The state sales tax is 6.5%, but counties can use 0.9% of that for things like bridges, roads, industrial water facilities and other types of infrastructure.

The new law was heavily backed by Florea, who says even businesses suffer when their workers can't find housing.

"It was in surveys of businesses, the No. 1 economic problem, or impediment to economic growth from the businesses themselves, was housing."

Florea took up the subject of affordable housing at a public meeting with Chelan County commissioners Tuesday.

Leavenworth has an acute problem housing its workforce with its high cost of living as a tourist destination.

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