By John Wilson
King County Assessor
The housing crisis in King County does not discriminate when it comes to affordability. Old or young, far too many of our neighbors struggle to pay the rent or to cover the costs of staying in their home. Asian and Pacific Islander communities — 20 percent of King County’s population — are just as affected by the high-cost of housing as everyone else.
There is help, however. One exciting development is the Publix Hotel project in Seattle’s International District. Owned by the Moriguchi family, this renovated building will be home to 125 affordable apartments and some retail businesses. It will only add strength and vitality to the ID, one of Seattle’s most interesting and vibrant neighborhoods.
Sadly, however, our housing crisis is much larger than any one project, private or public. So I’d like to mention two programs that can help low-income seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes. One is the senior tax exemption. The other is a tax deferral program for seniors and people unable to work.
The first thing to know is these programs help people on low incomes. For an exemption, the occupant homeowner must have an annual household income that does not exceed $40,000, or for a deferral, the annual household income must be more than $45,000.
Anyone with questions also may call our staff at the King County Assessor’s office, 206-296-3920.
The Senior Exemption program provides property tax reductions at three different levels, depending on total income. For the greatest benefit, if a household income is below $30,000, an exemption is available for regular levies on 60 percent of your home’s value.
For property tax exemptions, homeowners must be at least 61 years old, provide proof of income, and live in the residence. Applications for tax exemptions will be for relief in the year after the application is filed. Property tax exemptions must be renewed every four years.
People qualifying for property tax exemptions are not required to repay the exempted taxes (unless of course it turns out the exemptions prove to be fraudulent, in which case repayment and penalties may apply). For all the details please see http://www.dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop tax/seniorexempt.pdf.
The property tax deferral program for senior citizens and disabled persons does not waive taxes. Rather, the taxes are paid by the state, a lien is then placed on the qualified property and all deferred taxes are repaid with interest when the property is sold or passed on.
For property tax deferrals, applicants’ annual household income can’t exceed $45,000, and, generally, you must be at least 60 years old or unable to work due to disability. Details for the property tax deferral program may be reviewed at dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop_tax/seniordefs.pdf
All personal information is kept confidential.
While these are important homeowner tools, we’re looking at other ways to preserve affordable rental housing and commercial space for small, local businesses, like so many that have been the retail backbone of the ID for generations.
Of course, these programs do not address homelessness. Yet, on that front, King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council members have committed $7 million to create 237 units of affordable housing, $10 million to help the homeless transition into housing units, and $280,000 for homeless shelters in East and South King County.
Close to the International District, Constantine has opened a new 50-bed shelter in the 4th and Jefferson Building, and increased from 50 to 100 the number of shelter beds in the King County Administration Building.
I also have two personal reasons — my daughters. We adopted them as infants from Korea.
Today, they are amazing young women, 28 and 32, but they both work in the restaurant industry with varying schedules and pay. Over the past 18 months, both have returned home because of affordability. It is great to have them around, but I want them eventually to be able to afford some place they can call home.
I’d like to see everyone in King County have a place that is home.