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San Diego City Council Committee Advances $900M Affordable Housing Measure

San Diego's City Administration Building is shown in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
San Diego's City Administration Building is shown in this undated photo.

A San Diego City Council committee Wednesday advanced a proposed ballot measure that would provide $900 million for affordable housing projects through a property tax increase.

The committee voted to direct City Attorney Mara Elliott to draw up the measure to fund 5,000 to 10,000 units of housing, split equally among the following categories: permanent supportive housing for the homeless, units for seniors and veterans at risk of becoming homeless, and homes for low-income families.

On average, property owners would see their tax bills go up $19 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to the San Diego Housing Federation, which proposed putting a ballot measure before voters.


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Councilman Mark Kersey cast the lone vote against the proposal at Wednesday's meeting of the Rules Committee.

Stephen Russell, executive director of the Housing Federation, said San Diego is one of the only major California cities that has not passed such a program, which allows municipalities to receive matching state and federal grants and therefore reap the full benefits of public funds available to address housing affordability.

"This would be a very significant step toward addressing homelessness," he said. "There's a very strong appetite among voters out there to do something about this problem."

He cited a poll commissioned by the Housing Federation showing 73 percent of voters approve of the $900 million bond proposal. Support decreased two points after those polled were told the impact the measure would have on their property taxes, according to data collected by EMC research, which conducted polls ahead of several similar Bay Area measures that were approved by voters.


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There was a wide showing of support among public speakers at the Rules Committee meeting.

"The biggest problem we have in this community is unquestionably the lack of affordable housing," said Tom Theisen, former board president of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. "I would go as far as to say we will never be able to address the homeless crisis in this community unless we find a way to create affordable housing (for) the 3,000 to 4,000 people living on our streets."

Elliott will iron out the details of the proposed measure, working with the mayor's office and other city departments, before it goes back to the Rules Committee on July 11 for consideration. If it's advanced, the full council would consider placing it on the November ballot.