Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tacoma, Redmond mayors push back on 'misleading' realtors' ads

Political ads paid for by the Washington realtors' lobby have played during local broadcasts in the last few weeks, including during the NCAA basketball tournaments. Their target: a tax Democrats are proposing at the state level to fund affordable housing.

Seattle Rep. Frank Chopp's proposal would raise the tax on real estate transactions over $5 million.

That’s mostly expensive homes and apartment buildings, but the bill in its current form would also allow cities and counties to pass a 0.25% tax on smaller real estate transactions.

Washington Association of Realtors has spent around $400,000 on the campaign, according to the Washington Observer.

The ad circulating online shows a couple having breakfast at a table discussing the proposed tax and saying it would make housing more expensive, though the ad isn't specific about how.

Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance Director Michele Thomas had two thoughts when she saw the ad:

"One, that they're eating donuts with a fork," Thomas said. "Two, that it was just extremely misleading."

Thomas pointed out that the tax is the responsibility of the seller of the real estate, not the buyer. She joined the mayors of Tacoma and Redmond Thursday for a press conference pushing back on the ads.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards told KNKX on Wednesday that if the bill passes, she would push for the city council to impose a tax hike locally.

"I would venture to say that's why a lot of cities and towns in the state of Washington, like the Association of Washington Cities, is supporting this," Woodards said. "In Tacoma, we need 60,000 new housing units by 2040. We're doing good, but we're nowhere near making that goal."

Democrats have just over two weeks to pass the excise tax before the end of the legislative session. The bill has sat in its committee since February, and the draft House budget passed on Monday evening does not "assume" any excise tax changes, a budget coordinator for the House Appropriations Committee said in an email. But sponsor Rep. Chopp is a powerful longtime legislator and the Democrats could pass it at any time before April 23rd.

A lobbyist for the Realtors' association didn't respond to a request for comment by publication. They haven't officially disclosed the total amount spent on the campaign to the state public disclosure commission yet.

Scott Greenstone reports on under-covered communities, and spotlights the powerful people making decisions that affect all of us throughout Western Washington. Email him with story ideas at