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County urged to restructure its excise tax

Task force recommends allowing manufactured homes in the area

Task force recommends allowing manufactured homes in the area

October 26, 2005|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A task force studying work force housing in Washington County thinks the County Commissioners should again restructure the excise tax of $13,000 per housing unit to make homes more affordable to working families.

The group has recommended that the commissioners allow manufactured homes in the county's residential areas, stating the homes typically are less expensive than single-family homes, according to the Washington County Workforce Housing Task Force's report.

The task force presented the report to the commissioners Tuesday.

Task force Chairman Richard Willson told the commissioners that for a number of years, residents earning the median income could afford a median-priced home.

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"Now, a person looking for a starter home cannot find one that they can afford," Willson said.

According to the report, the median-priced home in September in Washington County was $240,000, and the median income for a family of four was $56,250.

In order to afford a median-priced home, that family would have to earn $67,416, the report said.

The task force has recommended the building excise tax be charged on a square-footage basis and according to a sliding scale fee structure rather than the current flat fee of $13,000.

The tax is charged on new construction. Money generated by the tax goes toward capital projects needed to keep up with growth in the county, such as school and road construction projects. Some money also is used for Washington County Free Library, public safety, and parks and recreation projects.

"A flat fee of ($13,000) is contrary to the policy goal of helping those who work in Washington County to be able to afford to live here," according to the task force's executive summary attached to the commissioners' meeting agenda.

According to the tax force's proposed sliding scale, the excise tax would be lower for people building smaller homes.

For example, the excise tax on the construction of a home less than 1,000 square feet would be $100, while the tax on a 2,600-square-foot home would be $14,776.

The proposed scale lists amounts for a home up to 6,000 square feet. The tax for a house that size would be $26,715, according to the proposed scale.

"I don't support going higher than our existing tax," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting.

He also said he didn't support the task force's proposed scale, but he did think the county's excise tax should be lower on smaller homes.

The excise tax began as a square-footage calculation, but the commissioners were given the authority by the state earlier this year to change it to the existing flat fee.

In another recommendation, the task force would like the county to create design standards for manufactured homes in residential areas. The county's Zoning Ordinance currently does not allow such homes in residentially zoned districts.

The task force describes manufactured homes as "built entirely in factories under controlled conditions and are inspected during construction and before shipment by an independent third-party inspector certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)."

According to information included in the report, the average sales price of a 1,595 square-foot manufactured home nationally was $51,300 in 2002. The average sales price of a single-family home, including the cost of land, was $228,600 nationally that same year.

"Cost is the Workforce Housing connection to Manufactured Housing," the task force's report states.

Commissioner John C. Munson supported allowing manufactured housing in residential zoning districts.

"I think we should start allowing these into the subdivisions," Munson said.

The task force also recommends that the county:

  • offer downpayment assistance programs for employed residents

  • seek the help of a consultant

  • purchase older homes, repair them and resell them to eligible families

  • change certain building codes and ordinances that add to housing costs
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