Berkeley voters appear to have approved two related measures in Tuesday's election that will raise funds to address affordable housing and homelessness.
With 85 percent of precincts reporting as of early Wednesday morning, Measure O, a $135 million bond measure that aims to create more affordable housing in Berkeley, had 75 percent of the vote, more than the two-thirds margin needed for victory.
Measure P, which is expected to bring in $6 million to $8 million annually for homeless services by increasing the transfer tax for the top third of residential and commercial property sales by 1 percent annually, only needs a simple approval but had 70 percent of the vote.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said early this morning, "I want to say thank you to the voters of Berkeley for promoting the needs of our most vulnerable people and making sure our city has an equitable future."
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Arreguin, former Mayor Tom Bates and other supporters of Measure O said in their ballot argument that the bond measure is needed because, "Many in Berkeley are struggling to find or keep their homes and longtime residents are being displaced."
They said the measure will create and preserve affordable housing for working people and their families, support affordable ownership opportunities such as co=ops and land trusts and protect seniors, the homeless and others by ensuring they have access to safe housing with necessary services.
"We have projects that are shovel-ready," Arreguin said early this morning.
Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley said the city expects Measure O to cost property owners $22 per $100,000 of assessed value until 2025, when it will jump to $33 per $100,000.
Dan Walden, the executive director of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, and Marcus Crawley, an Oakland resident who describes himself as a "concerned taxpayer," said in their argument opposing the measure that it has "bad accountability by design" and alleged that the city "is already planning to play fast and loose with the bond funds."
Arreguin, Bates and other supporters of Measure P said it's needed because "Berkeley is facing a crisis, with homelessness rising almost 20 percent in just two years."
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Supporters said the measure will generate general funds that can be used for navigation centers, mental health and substance abuse services, housing subsidies and job training for the homeless.
Arreguin said this morning, "Within a year Berkeley will have a plan to provide shelter for out entire unsheltered population. Housing first is the solution to homelessness."
Walden and Crawley, who also opposed Measure P, said, "Homelessness is a very important issue for our community but using the homelessness issue merely to pass a new tax is dishonest and unethical."
They said, "Berkeley already has California's highest transfer tax and raising it will ensure only the rich will be able to survive in Berkeley."