Jefferson County is an extremely poor county. People in Port Townsend may not know that the median income drops 25% as soon as they leave city limits. Yet Irondale, one of our truly struggling communities, has a 95% home ownership rate. These are proud, dignified people working to hang onto the only asset they have: their homes.
HUD reports that 3,000 Jefferson County households, low income and very-low income, already pay 30%, 50% and more of their incomes to pay taxes and mortgages. Very-low income people, many making little more than $22,000 a year, pay over 50% of their incomes for housing. One woman who fell into this category has told us that at the end of the month, before even buying food and clothing, toiletries, medicine for herself and her two children, she had only $183.
How many people are on this precipice in Jefferson County? According to HUD, nearly 2,000 households have no money for extra taxes, unless they sacrifice food, clothing, heat, car repairs, co-pays and other necessities.
Prop 1 hits these people hard. Even the Homes Now people acknowledge the increase in property taxes makes their lives harder and pushes them closer to homelessness.
If you are considering voting for Prop 1, please consider how you would explain your decision to one of these people whose life you would make harder.
Life long PT resident Jamie works half time for the school district as a part time employee. Her annual income is $12,000 per year. Jamie’s lone asset is her house. In five years her house will be paid off. This year she is in danger of losing it. She faces a big property tax increase. The increases come from the McCleary fix and potentially from the Housing Opportunity Fund.
Life long PT resident Julia has lived her on acreage property in the county for about 15 years. A year ago she lost her job, today she is trying to hang on to her home. She is compassionate for the homeless, but does not understand how the Homes Now! movement can be so heartless. To pay her share of the levy, if it passes, she will have to cut back on fuel for her pellet stove.
Cathy lived for years on a very low income, but all those years she took great pride in the home she owned free and clear. When she turned 62 she applied to the county for a property tax break. She earned 800/mo from her job and a modest amount of rental income, giving her a gross annual income of $24,000. The county rejected her application, telling her that because she had a small 401k saving nest egg she did not qualify. She still is uncertain if her application was properly rejected, but she did not have the resources to fight back.
Marilyn lives in Port Townsend. Her total income is a small pension and Social Security. Her one big asset is her home that she and her husband paid off over the course of 30 years of work. The Homes Now! tax which many newcomers in Port Townsend find insignificant will crush her grocery budget.
Rachael has lived in our area for 25 years. She is very proud of the manufacture home she own on a small acreage plot in the Tri-Area. She is a caregiver who grows her own food and lives an extremely frugal life. The Homes Now tax will cause her have to reduce her one luxury, socializing with friends at a local coffee shop.