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Who will pay for SLO County’s new housing deal? You, with new taxes and fees

An affordable housing fund in San Luis Obispo County could help pay for projects like this 20-unit project on Humbert Avenue in San Luis Obispo.
An affordable housing fund in San Luis Obispo County could help pay for projects like this 20-unit project on Humbert Avenue in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

If you shop, vacation or own a home in San Luis Obispo County, supervisors may be looking to you to foot the bill for their new housing deal that’s meant to generate more homes for low-income and working families.

In December, the county Board of Supervisors agreed on a set of policies that includes a three-year pilot program to create a fund that will bring in $2 million to $4 million every year. Local nonprofits can then use the fund as leverage to bring in millions of dollars more in state and federal money to pay for new housing projects.

The fund is desperately needed to address the housing crisis — and that’s essential to the economic stability of San Luis Obispo County, according to county leaders and a coalition of local businesses and organizations.

How will we pay for it?

That money will likely come from the county’s 2018-2019 budget, and a combination of new fees and taxes in subsequent years.

The county could begin collecting new fees on new houses larger then 2,200 square feet as soon as spring 2019.

The county Planning and Building Department is working on a proposal for supervisors to consider in February or March 2019 that would create a tiered fee structure, so larger homes would pay more fees.

County analysts don’t expect those fees to raise enough for the entire fund. The balance could come from existing revenues — a solution that would be fast and wouldn’t require a public vote, but would require cuts to existing services or reserves.

Or the balance could come from a new tax, which would have to be approved by voters.

Supervisors in early 2019 will discuss proposing one of the following taxes, fees or bonds:

Residential vacation rental impact fee

Who would pay: Tourists and visitors.

Estimated revenue generated: $675,000 to $920,000 assuming a $2.73 per night fee for 1,377 vacation rentals.

Cannabis tax

Who would pay: Cannabis business owners and their customers in unincorporated areas of the county.

Estimated revenue generated: Unknown, as no cannabis tax revenue has been received to date.

Transient Occupancy Tax (Hotel tax)

Who would pay: Tourists and visitors.

Estimated revenue generated: $1.06 million a year assuming the tax is increased by one percentage point.

Sales tax increase

Who would pay: County residents and visitors.

Estimated revenue generated: $2.5 million a year assuming a .25% increase in unincorporated areas only; $12.5 million assuming a .25% increase countywide.

Property tax on second homes

Who would pay: Owners of seasonally occupied or second homes.

Estimated revenue generated: Unknown.

Affordable housing general obligation bond

Who would pay: Property owners

Estimated revenue generated: $140 million, assuming a property tax increase of $16.77 for every $100,000 in assessed value.

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Monica Vaughan reports on Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: mvaughan@thetribunenews.com


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