It’s a pipe dream that the proposed Sisters affordable housing tax is going to accomplish much more than make housing in Sisters less affordable.
Tackling affordable housing is admittedly tricky, but raising the cost of housing to create housing doesn’t make good sense.
Sisters government has been discussing the possible new tax for several months, according to The Nugget of Sisters. The proposal may be a 1 percent construction excise tax on new buildings — both homes and businesses. A new home in Sisters now for sale for $300,000 would cost $3,000 more. That may not be enough to stop many buyers. If the problem, though, is that housing in Sisters is already too expensive, why do anything to make housing more expensive?
This tax also foists the burden for subsidizing affordable housing on people who buy new homes or businesses that build new buildings. That’s not fair. If fixing the affordable housing problem in Sisters is a community need, the community should be paying for it — not just people who build something new. This proposal is like a newcomer tax.
The 1 percent rate has not been formally set. It is the rate city budgeters used when calculating the amount the tax would raise in the 2018-19 fiscal year. The estimate is that it would raise $160,000 to help develop affordable housing. That small amount won’t do much on its own. It could be leveraged with other money or saved up.
Instead of a housing tax that makes housing less affordable, Sisters should look for ways to make all housing cheaper and easier to build. Does the city have any unnecessary or overly burdensome zoning or land use regulations?
Many people consider Sisters a desirable place to live. Its schools have a good reputation. The community’s small size and beautiful location can also be strong draws. The cost of housing in Sisters means, though, that only a small number of individuals can enjoy the benefit of living there. It’s like a wall blocking diversity and mobility. A new tax on housing raises the wall higher.