Homelessness and the skyrocketing cost of housing have reached a crisis point. In Berkeley alone an estimated 1,000 people, or 1% of our population, are homeless. Many more residents are at risk of losing their homes, being displaced, or unfairly burdened by rapidly rising housing costs.
The time to act is now.
Over the past decade, affordable housing has emerged as the number one issue affecting our city and residents have called on City Hall to act quickly to address the problem. We have answered the call – currently, there are close to 2,000 units of new housing under construction with another 1,500 in the permit process. In 2017, we invested $650,000 into eviction and displacement defense to help tenants, and this summer opened Berkeley’s first Navigation Center to help connect people now on the streets with critical services to rebuild their lives and move into permanent housing. And yet, we must do more.
I’m proud to call Berkeley home because we are a compassionate city. We help our neighbors and care deeply about justice and fairness. But to make a real impact on housing, we need resources that match the scale of the problem.
That’s why this November, Berkeley voters will have the opportunity to support two critical measures. Measure O, the $135 million affordable housing bond will provide funds to help the city and its nonprofit partners acquire, rehabilitate, build and preserve affordable homes for seniors, veterans, working families including teachers, nurses, and other vulnerable populations. Measure O will allow us to partner with affordable housing developers to create permanently affordable homes at extremely, very low, low and moderate income levels. Measure O would cost approximately $97 per year for a home with the city’s mean assessed valuation of $425,000 and continue for 36 years. One hundred dollars per household is significant, but a relatively small price to pay to significantly increase affordable housing in our community.
Measure P, the real estate transfer tax will only apply to homes that sell for $1.5 million or more in the city. Most Berkeley residents will never have to pay for Measure P. Funds raised will support critical homelessness services, including prevention, shelter, rental subsidies and supportive services along with job training and housing counseling services for the most vulnerable. Our new navigation center has already demonstrated that with focused services, and caseworkers, many homeless people can transition into permanent housing, either by moving into their own units around the county or being reunited with their families.
If approved, both of these measures will be instrumental in providing local matching funds so that we can access our fair share of Alameda County and State of California funding, which will help to maximize what we can do. Without local city funding, we cannot access these county and state funds.
Both measures will be subject to rigorous independent audits and annual review.
The status quo is unsustainable and inhumane. Too many Berkeley families believe that home ownership is out of reach for them or their children, creating a feeling of hopelessness and despair about their future. While Berkeley has built more below market housing over the past decade than many other Bay Area cities, with your help, we will be able to do a lot more and create a more equitable and just community that we are all proud to call home. Please join me, former Mayor Tom Bates, a unanimous Berkeley City Council, the Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Democratic Party and thousands of Berkeley residents in supporting Measures O and P.
You can learn more at www.affordableberkeley.org