Voters around the country Tuesday reacted to the worsening housing affordability crisis by passing a number of initiatives meant to address the problem, including statewide measures in California and Oregon, as well as local measures in Berkeley; Portland, Oregon; Bellingham, Washington; Telluride, Colorado; Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin; and Chicago.
Voters in multiple states overwhelmingly passed ballot measures to issue bonds or raise taxes to fund affordable housing. Flagstaff, Arizona, was the sole exception. The results on rent control, however, were less clear, with a state measure to repeal state rent control limits losing in California, which preempted a local vote on rent control in Berkeley. And while voters in Chicago supported lifting the statewide ban on rent control, the nonbinding vote itself is only advisory and would not repeal the ban, which would have to be proposed by legislators through a bill.
“The relatively large number of housing measures on the ballot this year reflects a national sense of urgency amid rising housing costs, housing analysts say. A lack of federal action and cash-strapped state and local budgets have contributed to the crisis,” according to an article by Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, on Wednesday.
Housing prices are now at their least affordable level in a decade for buyers, and renters, especially those with low incomes, continue to struggle with rising rates.
Here’s a breakdown of the outcomes on state and local ballots:
- California Prop 1 for veterans and affordable housing: This authorizes $4 billion in general obligation bonds for existing housing-related programs, loans, grants, and projects and housing loans for veterans and affordable housing. Prop 1 passed.
- California Prop 2 for the homeless: This funds housing for those with mental illness who are homeless by allowing the state to use up to $140 million of county mental health funds per year to repay up to $2 billion in bonds. Prop 2 passed.
- California Prop 10 for rent control: Prop 10 would repeal state limits on the kind of rent control cities and counties could offer, giving control to local regulators to, for example, impose rent control on single-family homes or cap rent on an apartment when it becomes vacant. Prop 10 lost.
- Berkeley Measure Q for rent control: Subject to California Prop 10 passing, this city measure would have changed Berkeley’s rent control laws to exempt new buildings from rent stabilization for 20 years, while maintaining all rent boosts made under state law when tenancy changed and start rent control from that level. While Measure Q won the city vote, most of it will not go into effect because California Prop 10 lost.
- Oregon Measure 102 on affordable housing: This amends Oregon’s state constitution to “allow counties, cities, and towns to — with voter approval and certain restrictions — use bond revenue to fund the construction of affordable housing without necessarily retaining complete ownership of the constructed housing,” allowing them to partner with nonprofits and private developers and to use federal tax credits. (Currently, a government entity must own affordable housing in Oregon.) Measure 102 passed.
- Portland Measure 26-199 on affordable housing: The measure allows the Metro government “to issue $652.8 million in general obligation bonds to build affordable housing, buy and rehabilitate existing housing, and buy land for affordable housing.” It is expected to fund affordable housing for about 7,500 people. Measure 26-199 passed.
- Bellingham Home Fund, Prop 2018-5 on affordable housing: The measure would extend an existing property tax for new construction of affordable housing and the preservation of existing buildings. “For the owner of a $300,000 property, it’s $9/month,” according to an information site about the measure. The Home Fund passed.
- Telluride Measures 2A, 2B, 2C. Measure 2A would increase property taxes equal to a $72 tax increase on a $500,000 property for affordable housing and is expected to raise $554,000. Measure 2B would increase sales taxes by a half-cent (the existing half-cent tax raised $761,048.48 for affordable housing in 2017), and 2C (related to 2A) would allow the town to increase its debt for affordable housing and use the tax revenue from 2A to pay it off. All measures passed.
- Charlotte bonds for affordable housing: Voters would decide whether Charlotte would borrow $50 million in affordable housing bonds, far more than the $15 million the city usually seeks for the Housing Trust Fund. It would “fund subsidies for developers building low-income housing, as well as programs that fund the rehabilitation of foreclosed, blighted, or dilapidated single-family houses and apartments,” reported the Charlotte Observer. The bond passed.
- Austin Prop A for affordable housing: The measure seeks a $250 million bond to fund “the creation, rehabilitation, and retention of affordable rental and ownership housing.” Prop A passed.
- Flagstaff Prop 422 for affordable housing: The measure would have allowed the city to sell $25 million in bonds for the “construction, rehabilitation, redevelopment and acquisition of land for housing units; and the related infrastructure.” Prop 422 failed.
- Chicago on rent control: Voters were asked if the state should lift the ban on rent control. While the vote would not overturn the ban, it gives officials a sense of how people feel about the issue. Voters support lifting the Illinois ban on rent control.