While Republicans held the majority in the Senate and Democrats took the House during the mid-term elections, one big winner for both parties at the polls was affordable housing. From propositions to bond measures on the state and local levels, voters said yes to addressing the affordability crisis.
"Yesterday's landmark elections included several big ballot wins that will help make homes more affordable. In states, counties, and local communities, impacted voters chose to make the American home a priority," says Ali Solis, president and CEO of Make Room, a nonprofit organization working to end the national rental housing crisis. "We hope that policy leaders at all levels of government will take notice and join our efforts to make all homes affordable."
With sky-high housing costs one of the California’s biggest issues, state voters passed two propositions to fund needed housing programs for low-income and homeless individuals and families.
Fifty-four percent of the voters supported Proposition 1, a $4 billion bond measure to support various housing programs, including approximately $1.8 million to build or renovate rental housing projects. About $1 billion would go to home loan assistance to veterans and $300 million in loans and grants to build housing for farmworkers.
Approximately a third of the units are targeted for the pricey San Francisco Bay Area, where it won 73% of the vote.
Proposition 2 was another winner, garnering 61% of the vote. This measure calls for creating housing for homeless people with severe mental illness. It allows the state to use up to $140 million per year of county mental health funds to repay up to $2 billion in bonds that would fund housing for those with mental illness who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Supporters say Prop 2 will help build 20,000 permanent supportive housing units under the state’s “No Place Like Home” program.
In San Francisco, voters also supported Proposition C, which would raise an estimated $300 million a year for city homeless programs by taxing big businesses.
The measure won 60% to 40% with 99% of the vote counted. Although Prop C won a solid majority, it is still expected to face legal challenges that could hold up the money from reaching the streets.
Also known as the “Our City, Our Home” initiative, the proposition mandates that at least half of Prop C’s funding be spent on construction, rehab, prevention, and operating subsidies for about 4,000 permanent housing units for people experiencing homelessness. About 25% is targeted to mental health services, 12% for preventing homelessness, and 10% to pay for new shelter beds and hygiene programs.
It was the most contentious measure on the local ballot. Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff poured at least $7 million of his own and his company’s money into the campaign for Prop. C, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Across the bay in Oakland, voters passed Measure W, a tax on vacant land or buildings that are used for less than 50 days a year at annual rates of $6,000 per parcel and $3,000 for condo units to fund resources to address homelessness and illegal dumping. At least 85% of the funds are expected to be used to create affordable housing, provide services for homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless, and address illegal dumping.
However, Proposition 10, a measure to expand rent control in the state, was soundly defeated. In addition, Measure V, a proposal calling for the issuance of general obligation bonds for the acquisition and construction of affordable housing in San Jose, and Measure H, a $140 affordable housing bond in Santa Cruz County,needed two-thirds of the vote and were not expected to pass.
In another state facing rising rents and housing costs, Oregon voters came out in support of affordable housing. While turning down four other measures, voters approved Measure 102 to amend the state Constitution to allow governments to partner with private and nonprofit partners to build more affordable housing with bond revenue.
Voters in the Portland metro area—which includes Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties—also came out in support of Measure 26-199, a $652.8 million bond to create more affordable housing. With the passage of both measures, the bond is expected to help build approximately 3,900 affordable homes for households earning up to 80% of the area median income in the three counties.
To address the affordability crisis in Austin, Texas, voters passed the largest bond ever dedicated to affordable housing in the city. The $250 million Proposition A includes $100 million for buying land for affordable housing development, $94 million for housing targeted to renters and the homeless, $28 million for for-sale affordable housing for households with lower incomes, and $28 million for home repairs for lower-income homeowners.
Affordable housing also was a big issue on the ballot in Charlotte, N.C. Voters approved a $50 million bond that will go into the city’s Housing Trust Fund and be used as gap financing for developers building or rehabilitating affordable housing units.
In addition, voters approved a $10 million bond for affordable housing in Chapel Hill, N.C.
In Broward County, Fla., nearly 73% of the voters supported the creation of a dedicated trust fund for affordable housing.