Wins and Losses in the Battle for Affordable Housing

Posted April 10, 2023 in Real Estate Trends

Scott Hogan, Clark County WA real estate agent

Happy Easter to you! Affordable housing is one of the goals most people can support. We want mortgage payments and rents to be affordable for us and the next generation of Clark County residents and homebuyers. Recently, there have been a couple of “wins” that help affordability, and at least one big challenge.

First, the wins. Within the last month, Clark County launched a down payment assistance fund to help buyers of homes priced below $600,000. The loan is at 2% interest and the repayment funds will go back and be reinvested in the program. Repayment is due at the time of sale, transfer, refinance, when the borrower no longer occupies the primary residence, or at 30 years.

To qualify, a borrower must have not owned a home in the past three years, have a credit score of at least 620, and complete housing counseling both before and after their purchase. The household must have an annual income no more than 90% of the median income for a household of four. Buyers interested in this program should go to the County Treasurer’s website.

The second “win” is not new, but bears repeating: a tax exemption program can help senior citizens and people with disabilities to reduce their property taxes. Eligibility is based on age or disability, home ownership, residency, and income. Participants are not required to repay the taxes they save. The County Assessor’s office is holding an informational meeting on April 14 at 8 am-1 pm at the Washougal Community Center. To schedule an appointment for the event, call 564.397.2391 or email Walk-ins also are welcome. Homeowners interested in attending should bring photo ID and their federal tax information.

Finally, the bad news: the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) has been discovered by lawmakers to be an endless source of tax income. In the last few years, the rate has gone from 1.78% to 3.5% on the highest-priced sales. Now, HB 1628 could, if passed by the legislature, increase the rate to 4.5% or even 4.75% on sales above $5 million! If you think that doesn’t affect you, consider that land that becomes subdivisions or apartment buildings often fits that price category, and that the doubling of taxes makes the land more expensive to develop at a time when less expensive land is needed to supply the housing to meet the needs of our growing population. These costs end up in your mortgage or rent payment!

Clark County Title supports affordable housing. We want as many people as possible to achieve the American dream of homeownership. Our motto “Service is the Difference” means that, while all title companies sell the same products (title insurance and escrow services), our level of service sets us apart! Let us help you buy or sell real estate this year!

Your friends at Clark County Title,