Some people think the proposed Sound Transit 3 property tax only affects homeowners. But in reality, property taxes do affect rents.

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Will renters get a free ride when it comes to the proposed Sound Transit 3 property tax?

It sure looks that way if you use The Seattle Times ST3 tax increase calculator — folks who don’t own property enter “zero.”

But in reality, property taxes do affect rents.

“A lot of people think ‘I don’t own property, so I’m not paying property tax,’ ” said Sean Martin, external affairs director for the Rental Housing Association of Washington. “But as expenses go up, rent has to go up to cover it.”

He says some landlords now send tenants an itemized list of their costs to help explain rent increases.

Adam Langley, a senior research analyst for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, says in some scenarios, a landlord might swallow most of a tax increase. For example, if the apartment property is adjacent to a jurisdiction not subject to the tax, a landlord might not raise rents for fear that tenants would move across the border in response.

But ST3, a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that proposes a $54 billion expansion of light rail, buses and commuter trains, includes the most populated parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. It would not be practical for most renters to move out of the area. So landlords have greater leverage to pass on the tax increase.

“In a multicounty area, increasing the property tax on rental properties — a large share of that tax increase will be borne by the renters, not the landlords,” Langley said.

So how much could the ST3 property tax affect your rent, if it is passed on by your landlord?

That depends on your apartment building’s assessed value, which is determined by its quality and location — just like with single-family homes. The tax per unit is higher for a new, “Class A” property in downtown Seattle or Bellevue than for an older building in a less-desirable location. Some apartment buildings may also receive tax breaks through programs such as Seattle’s Multifamily Property Tax Exemption.

So there’s no simple formula, but I used data from the King County assessor to calculate what the average ST3 property tax per unit could be for five King County apartment complexes — from an upscale new building next to Amazon’s Denny Triangle campus to a 1970s garden apartment in SeaTac.

The per-unit cost increases range from a high of about $10 per month to a low of $2 per month. Most renters would pay somewhere in the middle of those two figures, assuming the tax increase is passed on to them.

And renters, like everyone else, would also be subject to the sales tax and car-tab tax that are part of the ST3 package also known as Proposition 1.

2121 Sixth Ave., Seattle (Google)

Via 6

2121 Sixth Ave., Seattle

Neighborhood: Denny Triangle

Year built: 2013

Units: 654

Average property taxes per unit, 2016: $315.51 per month

Average ST3 property tax increase per unit: $9.82 per month ($117.88 per year)

Equivalent to owning a property valued at: $470,000

 

8102 161st Ave. N.E., Redmond  (Google)

Veloce

8102 161st Ave. N.E., Redmond

Year built: 2009

Units: 322

Average property taxes per unit, 2016: $234.60 per month

Average ST3 property tax increase per unit: $6.87 per month ($82.44 per year)

Equivalent to owning a property valued at: $325,000

 

907 N.E. 45th St., Seattle (Google)

The Kennedy Building

907 N.E. 45th St., Seattle

Neighborhood: University District

Year built: 2004

Units: 125

Average property taxes per unit, 2016: $217.52 per month

Average ST3 property tax increase per unit: $6.24 per month ($74.85 per year)

Equivalent to owning a property valued at: $300,000

 

418 E. Loretta Place, Seattle (Google)

Biltmore

418 E. Loretta Place, Seattle

Neighborhood: Capitol Hill

Year built: 1924

Units: 125

Average property taxes per unit, 2016: $150.79 per month

Average ST3 property tax  increase per unit: $4.76 per month ($57.13 per year)

Equivalent to owning a property valued at: $200,000

 

19800 International Blvd., SeaTac (Google)

Landing at Angle Lake

19800 International Blvd., SeaTac

Year built: 1976

Units: 153

Average property taxes per unit, 2016: $91.02 per month

Average ST3 property tax  increase per unit: $2 per month ($24.06 per year)

Equivalent to owning a property valued at: $100,000