Letter to the editor: It’s time to invest in affordable housing

(This letter was written to the Snohomish County Council. It is being published here at the author’s request)

Dear County Council Members,

Thank you for considering enacting 1590 to support a 0.1% sales tax for constructing affordable housing and its operation.I know this is not an easy decision, but it is absolutely vital for our county’s future and the well-being of our residents.

Market doesn’t build this housing

Private market housing will not produce units that can be affordably rented to residents earning 60% or less of the area median income. Affordable housing requires partnerships and public investment to ensure that our essential workers can find and live in housing that will not be flipped for profit. Enacting this very small tax will give the county vital funds and will unlock significant grant dollars at various levels to create affordable housing in Snohomish County. This will support our economic vitality, bring more jobs, construct housing, and ensure Snohomish County residents can continue to live, work, and recreate in our county.

We pay for it no matter what 

Without this tax, and without more affordable housing, we will continue to see growth in housing insecurity, residents experiencing homelessness, and the associated costs of trying to re-shelter our neighbors. These costs manifest in health care, human and social services, and law enforcement costs, which are passed on to all taxpayers. Studies from around the world show what solves housing insecurity and homelessness: a roof over people’s heads.

Our environment demands it

The rural and ex-urban sprawl of the Salish Sea region continues to bulldoze our green-field areas, increasing transportation greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants harming salmon recovery efforts. Not only is sprawl fiscally unsustainable, but the environmental impacts are being seen season after season as our extreme weather events set new records every year. We can reduce “drive to qualify” by using these dollars to build this much-needed housing in our cities so our workers can live nearer where they work, while also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to seeing more affordable housing built in cities and areas in need all across Snohomish County.


Luke Distelhorst


  1. Well said. Thank you for your letter to the Snohomish County Council. Let’s hope they pass this most needed piece of legislation.

  2. This is the worst time to invest in housing. You’re supposed to invest on a dip, not at the top. Its litterally the worse time to invest in Affordable Housing. A market crash will make things really affordable. Lets let that happen instead of propping up these horrible ideas.
    Ironically, Affordable Housing schemes (such as Fanny-Freddy, the Greenspan Put, subrime loans, artificially low interest rates, QE, Rent Control, Squatters Rights) are how housing got so un-affordable in the first place.

  3. Yet here we are, with Housing Hope about to construct affordable housing units in Edmonds without this tax. Not to mention the countless other projects recently opened or in progress in the county. We have the highest sales tax in the state. Let’s take a look at that first before ramming through a tax without the vote of the people. More money does not equate to progress on the issue. Seattle and King County are perfect examples of that. And, the last point here. Good lord. If you’re going to take a position on a singular issue, make the case for that as clearly as you can with solid facts. Don’t then try to insert non sequitur arguments because it’s part of your party doctrine. That’s obvious in this case given the author. Adding arguments like that just further drives a wedge amongst otherwise reasonable people.

    1. By using an existing nonprofit that already is up and running planning /and building local affordable housing for All people that are economically struggling…
      It would be nice to see Edmonds have a truly well thought out housing project. Lots of foundations would chip in.. but where??
      Remember the city land that used to be the oil storage acreage? It’s 8 acres, isn’t it?? The port of Edmonds could donate the parking lot beside it…no one hardly uses it.
      Even 24 townhomes would bring a good, hireable workforce to downtown Edmonds and Swedish…. Just a thought. Happy Holidays!

  4. While we comment about affordable housing the Edmonds School District will discuss and may even take action tonight on leasing 2.2 acres to a Housing Developer to create “affordable” housing for students and their families. One should look at that proposal to gain some insight on how this type of housing gets created, financed and available. The land proposed is for a 75 year lease. We should see if this type of development is a model we want to support not only for using the public land in the school district but other public lands as well.

  5. Define “AFFORDABLE”.
    Housing prices in Edmonds are ludicrous. County prices are rising also.
    There is a homeless “machine” that gobbles millions of dollars.
    Waste and incompetence are rife.
    Who controls the money?? How is it spent??
    Nina Quinn

  6. “Thank you for considering enacting 1590 to support a 0.1% sales tax for constructing affordable housing and its operation. I know this is not an easy decision, but it is absolutely vital for our county’s future and the well-being of our residents.”
    How long will it take to raise this 1% to 5% and continue on an upward climb? Based on what, the value of one’s property? Most of us worked hard to get to the point we could afford a house in this area. It surely is not impossible, it just takes dedication and hard work. In the past, we have always lived in areas we could afford, and it was not Edmonds in those early years. It simply means setting goals, staying in school, and having strong family ties to give us the tools we need to accomplish our goals. If one of these tools is missing, it will be more difficult, but not impossible. Life is not fair, it never will be, no matter how hard we try, but people need to GIVE before they get, and it does not always mean money. Set your goals, figure out how to make them a reality, and GIVE yourself a pathway to the future you envision. Think of all the great people who came from abject poverty and rose to the heights of greatness! This was accomplished incrementally, just as this tax will go up.
    Somewhere along the line, they figured it out; living in Edmonds may not have been their goal, but if it is your goal make a plan, know it may collapse a time or two, get up and ‘Give’ yourself a second, third or however many restarts you need. It can be done. How many people reading this could afford to have lived in Edmonds in their early years? Not me!

    Bettte Bell

  7. Luke is correct. However, there are over 500 tax exempt religious organizations in Snohomish County. Where are the contributions from these faith-based organizations? Should they be contributing to their own community?
    I whole-heartedly support this venture but instead of taxing everyone, perhaps it should be privately funded.

  8. I agree with where Mr. Distelhorst is coming from on the need for more affordable housing but I question using the already regressive sales tax to fund it. Granted, you are taxing some people who can well afford it, but you are also taxing the very people you are trying to help with affordable housing to help provide what they already can’t afford. That makes little sense to me.

    We’ve got people with money to burn sending other people with money to burn, into outer space for whatever good reason and we are adding sales taxes to be paid by people earning $40,000/yr. working two or more jobs. Our housing problems stem from extreme wealth expressing their wealth in ever fancier and bigger housing while the masses either earn wages and salaries insufficient to buy or rent modest but decent housing or they are so demoralized or mentally ill they use housing money to self medicate on alcohol and drugs while living in tents and vehicles. Domestic violence and break-up is a factor too, but a little easier to address with help from the various agencies.

    The basic problem is way too few people control way too much of the total wealth pie. An ever bigger sales tax will not solve this problem.

  9. Re: “Market doesn’t build this housing” – Free Markets have brought more people out of poverty than any other system in the world; just look at Venezuela and Cuba. And if we spent more time helping the poor understand this part of real life, we could solve the homeless problem much sooner. This reveals how little leaders understand or appreciate free markets.

    It’s always hard for the left to make decisions, and by virtue signaling by saying “these are not easy decisions”, followers view them as heroes, but if we had real heroes we wouldn’t be growing the homeless problem we would be solving it.

    Re: “We pay for it no matter what” – the author says, “Without this tax, and without more affordable housing, we will continue to see growth in housing insecurity, residents experiencing homelessness, and the associated costs of trying to re-shelter our neighbors.” Has he been living under a rock? What does he think we have been experiencing for the last 40 years? My crystal ball can see 40 years into the future nothing but increased taxes and still no end in sight of the problem. Or am I seeing the past?

    Re: “Our Environment demands it” – I’ve never heard or read that global warming, the climate crisis or climate change demands anything. But this kind of rhetoric stirs the left’s need for urgency. And if the left really had an interest in the environment, they would rewrite the Growth Management Act and quit forcing our urban centers to increase density. What would the environment say if it could speak about large high rise apartments being built, the increased congestion, strains on public services and growth of crime?

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