Last month, voters overwhelmingly agreed to create new funds for affordable housing and homeless services, and to defend tenants’ rights. Here’s a list of the most important holessness-related measures the Bay Area and California decided on in November.
Prop 1 – Bonds to Fund Veteran & Affordable Housing. PASSED.
This measure—which Californians approved 55.8% to 44.2%—lets the state sell $4 billion in bonds to create funding for housing programs. Nearly half of the money raised from the bonds will go towards building and renovating affordable apartment buildings. A quarter of the funds will be used to provide financial support to veterans taking out a home loan. Prop 1 money will also assist state homeownership, infrastructure and farmworker housing programs.
Prop 2 – Amend Existing Housing Program for Mental Illness. PASSED.
In 2004, California voted in favor of Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which increased the income tax for those making over $1 million a year to fund county mental health care programs. Prop 2, which passed 63% to 37%, will reallocate some of the funding from the Mental Health Services Act to the No Place Like Home Program, which builds and refurbishes housing units meant to be occupied by those coping with mental illness who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. An additional $2 billion in bonds will also be sold by the state to support No Place Like Home. Certain counties may lose some funding for public mental health care, but the money will go towards creating thousands of units for people who are mentally ill.
Prop 10 – Rental Control on Residential Property. DEFEATED.
The repeal of Costa Hawkins was struck down by voters at the polls by a wide margin, 40.1% to 59.9%. Had it passed, state rent control laws would have been abolished in favor of allowing decisions to be made at the local level. Landlords would have been subject to much stricter rent controls, leading to fewer rent hikes on tenants.
In the end, it came down to money. Developers and landlords poured almost $75 million in campaign funding to oppose Prop 10, compared to about $25 million raised by advocates like the Coalition for Affordable Housing in support of the measure. While Prop 10 didn’t create the change many lower- and middle-class Californians had hoped for, it sparked a divisive conversation on housing that will continue until housing becomes more affordable and accessible around the state.
Measure K – Rent Control Charter Amendment. DEFEATED.
Alameda voted in 2016 to approve an ordinance on rent control, limiting rent increases to once per year and requiring landlords who terminate certain leases to pay tenants a relocation fee.
Measure K would have amended the ordinance to require any changes be decided by voters in a county election, rather than by the City Council. Alamedans voted against the measure, 59% to 41%, siding with the Alameda Renters Coalition and the Alameda County Democratic Party over Alamedans in Charge, a landlord-backed group that supported a yes vote on K.
Measure O – General Obligation Bond for Affordable Housing. PASSED.
Another bond measure to create money, another victory for affordable housing. Measure O needed a hefty two-thirds majority vote to pass, so Berkeley residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure—by 77.5% to 22.5%—which raises funds to finance the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing. The City of Berkeley will sell $135 million in bonds and use the proceeds to acquire and improve homes for “teachers, seniors, veterans, the homeless, students, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.”
Measure P – Transfer Tax Measure. PASSED.
This approved tax increase will create $6 to $8 million a year for the next 10 years in support of services for the homeless, a much needed financial boost for a city struggling to find permanent locations for shelters. The top third most expensive property sales or transfers (all over $1.5 million in value) will be taxed at 2.5%, up from 1.5%.
Perhaps more important than the money, however, is the measure’s creation of the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, who will advise the City Council on how to best serve the city’s homeless population. The nine-member panel must have some expertise on the issue of homelessness: One of the seven possible criteria listed in Measure P is having “current or past lived experience with homelessness.”
Measure W – Parcel Tax – Vacant Properties. PASSED.
Much like Berkeley’s Measure P, Oakland’s parcel tax on vacant properties seeks to benefit homeless services and programs by creating additional funding and a new advisory committee on how to best spend those funds. Measure W needed a two-thirds majority to pass, and it earned 70% of the vote. Owners of vacant properties in Oakland will now be on the hook for $3,000 to $6,000 a year, depending on the property’s use. The hope is that empty housing units and storefronts will be filled, but if not, the City will have $10 million a year in revenue to spend for the next two decades on affordable housing, homeless services, and blighted property cleanup.
Measure Y – Eviction Ordinance. PASSED.
Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance originally limited the ability of landlords to evict tenants, with the exception of owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. Measure Y’s victory—of 58.4% to 41.6%—amends that ordinance by removing this exception, giving thousands of renters more stability in their leases. The measure also gives City Council more authority to pass eviction limitations on landlords in the future.
Measure T – Special Parcel Tax on Vacant Property. DEFEATED.
Inspired by Oakland’s Measure W, Measure T decided whether to incur a tax on vacant properties to create revenue to support homeless services and affordable housing. Unlike Oakland, however, Richmond residents did not pass the ordinance—it was defeated by 60.1% to 39.9%. A two-thirds majority was required to approve the measure. Measure T’s opponents successfully argued that the City of Richmond needs to find ways to spend less on employee salaries and pensions before they tax property owners more.
Prop C – Additional Business Taxes to Fund Homeless Services. PASSED.
Along with Prop 10, Prop C was the most-talked about measure in the Bay Area in 2018, and for good reason. San Franciscans have approved a gross receipts tax on the city’s largest businesses to generate $250 to $300 million each year to support homeless services, specifically permanent housing, mental health services, homelessness prevention and short-term shelters.
However, a legal dispute remains in the way of the funds being used. A lawsuit filed in August claims that California requires certain tax ballot measures receive a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority, to pass. Since Prop C only received 61% of the vote, City Controller Ben Rosenfield wrote that the city will not spend any of the money until a legal decision has been made. In response, Mayor London Breed—who opposed the measure leading up to the election—has asked the city attorney to seek a validation action in court to speed up the process of validating Prop C so that the fund can be used.
Jack Persons is a freelance writer who lives in San Francisco.