Berkeley Voters to Consider Affordable Housing, Homeless Measures

Berkeley voters will consider two related measures on the Nov. 6 ballot that seek to raise funds to address affordable housing and homelessness.

Measure O, which needs two-thirds approval to pass, is a $135 million bond measure that aims to create more affordable housing in Berkeley.

Measure P, which only needs a simple majority, would raise funds for homeless services by increasing the transfer tax for the top third of residential and commercial property sales by 1 percent annually.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, former Mayor Tom Bates and other supporters of Measure O say in their ballot argument that it is needed because, "Many in Berkeley are struggling to find or keep their homes and longtime residents are being displaced."

They say 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.

Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley says 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," say in their argument against the measure that it has "bad accountability by design" and allege that the city "is already planning to play fast and loose with the bond funds."

Walden and Crawley wrote, "Instead of diligently spending bond funds on a well-specified bond project, the city will be spending general funds on bond projects and bond funds on city staffing expenditures."

Arreguin, Bates and other supporters of Measure P say it's needed because "Berkeley is facing a crisis, with homelessness rising almost 20 percent in just two years."

Supporters say 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.

Walden and Crawley, who also oppose Measure P, say, "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 say, "Berkeley already has California's highest transfer tax and raising it will ensure only the rich will be able to survive in Berkeley."

Walden and Crawley also said, "The tax funds will be placed in the general purposes fund where they can be spent on anything."

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