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Affordable Housing Bond Measure Takes Step Toward 2020 Ballot
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Photo by Roland Lizarondo
A proposal to place a $900 million affordable housing bond on the city of San Diego’s 2020 ballot took a big step forward Wednesday as the measure made its way out of a key City Council committee.
The bond measure's main proponent, the nonprofit San Diego Housing Federation, estimates the money would support the creation of roughly 7,500 affordable housing units geared toward veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, low-income families and homeless people.
Supporters of the measure are asking for it to be placed on the November 2020 ballot. They say San Diego's lack of affordable housing is exacerbating the homelessness crisis by pushing more people out of their homes and onto the streets.
"But we as a community also have a chance to do something about this crisis," Housing Federation Executive Director Stephen Russell said at a rally before the Rules Committee meeting. "The solution starts here, and it starts today. The solution is the homelessness and affordable housing bond."
Russell had initially hoped to place the bond on the November 2018 ballot, but faced procedural delays and pushback from a coalition of labor and business groups behind a separate measure to fund an expansion of the Convention Center. The groups feared two tax measures on one ballot would prompt voters to reject them both.
The Convention Center measure ultimately failed to make it on the November 2018 ballot. It is now scheduled for a vote in March 2020.
The housing bond would be paid for with an increase to property taxes totalling roughly $6 per month for the average San Diego homeowner, according to Housing Federation estimates. Because it includes a tax increase, the measure needs support from six of the nine City Council members to be placed on the ballot. It would need a "yes" vote from two-thirds of city voters to pass.
The committee voted 3-2 to direct the City Attorney's Office to craft the measure's official language and prepare a resolution for a vote at the full City Council. City Councilman Chris Ward said if the measure got the approval of voters, it would help San Diego compete for state and federal matching dollars that fund affordable housing.
"We've been taking a lot of steps here on this council to encourage more housing construction," he said. "But we can't get to where we need to be without a significant public investment to build more homes."
Council members Mark Kersey and Chris Cate voted against moving the proposal forward, while Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Council President Georgette Gomez joined Ward in voting "yes."
Kersey said he thought the Convention Center measure, which includes some funding for affordable housing and homelessness programs, would be enough to attract more state and federal investment.
"I don't think asking voters to approve two tax measures within 8 months of each other on the same issue is politically wise, and I don't think it's going to lead to success," he said.
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