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Renton Goes Own Way on Housing, Council Sees Prospects in the RHA

On October 5th, 2020, the Renton City Council held a meeting broadly going over new budget items and other topics. The city council voted unanimously in favor of a local 0.1% sales tax to be spent on housing programs. If they were not to pass it, the county’s “Health through Housing” program, which has its own 0.1% sales tax, would be contributed to and participated in.

Residents called in expressing support for the county’s Health through Housing program. Councilmember Randy Corman commented before its passing (watch here), “I’ve listened with great compassion and concern for the comments we’ve heard tonight, and I agree with the desire to help find affordable housing, but I have strong confidence we’ll be able to do that by approving this ordinance.”

He continued after it passed, “There’s probably people that would disagree with some of what I am going to say, but I think it’s important people know. The City of Renton is unlike most other cities in King County in that we do have our own housing authority, and the Renton Housing Authority is going to be 80 years old next year. It’s responsible for having put the units in place during World War II… Our housing authority has managed to, over the years, build very-very high quality units for the lowest cost… I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was a house bill to get through the system so we could tap into this funding so a lion’s share of it could go to the Renton Housing Authority to continue building housing.”

Every member of the council agreed with Councilmember Corman. Councilmember Valerie O’Halleran added a spurn to the county, “We are retaining 100% of the say on how that money is going to be spent in our community… if we ‘join’ quote-unquote with King County, we are in essense handing them seventy cents of every Renton dollar… we are also handing them the right to tell us how that remaining thirty cents is going to be spent.”

Some residents tied this to the city’s anti-homeless attitudes taken up this year against the county response to the pandemic, which landed a homeless facility in Renton (and other areas).

Councilmember Angelina Benedetti commented, “I know that this is being framed as a vote against the county’s plan, and I just want to say that is not, certainly, where my own heart is coming from. I see this as an opportunity for us to continue partnering with the county and looking for solutions that are regionally based, and I see that this as an opportunity that we might not ever have again.”

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