Berkeley, California, will ask city voters to support a November bond measure to provide $135 million for affordable housing.
City officials say the funds will be used to build new homes and protect existing affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area city.
The projects will be aimed to help those who are extremely low-income as well as working class residents who are being squeezed out of the Bay Area housing market, Mayor Jesse Arreguin said at a Tuesday council meeting.
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of placing the bond measure on the November ballot. Arreguin described the city, region and state as facing an “unprecedented affordability crisis.”
Berkeley is the latest city to look to housing bonds to address soaring housing costs in the Bay Area. Voters in neighboring Emeryville approved a $50 million bond in June, while Santa Rosa is exploring a November bond measure of between $80 million to $180 million. In 2016, Alameda County — which includes Berkeley — won passage of a $580 million housing bond.
Statewide, Prop. 1 on the November ballot would approve a $4 billion housing bond with $1 billion dedicated for veterans housing.
Berkeley's homeless population has grown, while teachers and other working-class people can't afford to live in the city, Arreguin said.
“Our diversity is part of what makes this community such an incredible place, but that diversity is threatened due to rising housing costs and home prices and displacement,” he said. “So it’s critical we do what we can to increase resources to create housing opportunities for the homeless, our working families, our teachers and our middle class so we can truly be a diverse and inclusive community.”
City officials said they hope to fund a variety of projects, including senior housing, the purchase of apartment buildings to keep them affordable, and partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District to create housing for teachers.
The housing bond would levy $23.37 per $100,000 of assessed value — which comes to $97 per year for a home with the city’s mean assessed valuation of $425,000, according to a report to the council.
The city would create an independent oversight committee of residents and conduct annual audits of bond spending, according to the proposal.
The measure would require a two-thirds voter approval.
Recent surveys conducted by the city showed that 67% of voters would support a $100 million bond while 56% would support a $150 million bond. That support dropped to 47% for a $200 million bond. Those numbers were higher after residents were presented with arguments for and against the measure, with 70% favoring the $100 million bond, according to the survey results.
The city didn't poll the $135 million amount it settled on.
Building affordable housing and addressing homelessness were the top concern raised by residents in the surveys.
Councilwoman Sophie Hahn said she was encouraged by that finding.
“This is probably the greatest opportunity we have this decade to make a significant and meaningful impact on the lack of affordability in Berkeley,” she said at the meeting.