November 8, 2018

2018 Midterms: A Referendum on Washington? Not so fast

In the chaotic lead-up to November 6, there has been a lot of rhetoric casting Congressional midterm elections as a referendum on federal policy. But on Tuesday, voters made dozens of decisions about what happens outside of Washington, DC. In fact, across the country Americans cast votes in 36 gubernatorial elections, 210 mayoral elections, 132 municipal elections, 42 state senate chambers, and 45 state house chambers, to say nothing of the 155 ballot measures in 37 states. It was a dizzying night of changing seats, hot contests, too-close-to-call races, and historic firsts. 

The 2018 midterms were, in fact, a referendum on critical issues that impact our everyday lives:  access to housing, racial equity, and economic blight, among others. Take California, where a whopping nineteen measures related to affordable housing hit state or local ballots. This kind of voter engagement on housing affordability has been a long time coming: with decades of cuts to critical housing programs, the explosion of technology and other sectors along the west coast, and a vastly underfunded approach to behavioral health services, the affordability crunch has infected every corner of this nation. 2018 was the culmination of long-neglected needs.

Overall, voters displayed a willingness to be taxed and a strong interest in solving the problems of affordability and homelessness that, in some places, seem to be only getting worse. Here’s a roundup of where some of those ballot measures landed: 

  • California: voters approved State Propositions 1 and 2 which authorizes a $4 billion bonds issuance for affordable housing and veteran homeownership, as well as an additional $2 billion to be repaid using existing funds generated from the Mental Health Services Act to provide services for homeless populations with serious mental illness. Enterprise strongly supported both Proposition 1 and 2 as measures that will help alleviate the state’s ongoing housing crisis.
  • California: voters rejected State Proposition 10, also known as the Local Rent Control Initiative Act, which would have expanded rent control by repealing current state law that restrict the scope of rent-control policies that local governments can impose.
  • San Jose, CA: voters rejected Measure V which would have authorized $450 million in bonds for affordable housing.
  • San Francisco, CA: voters approved Proposition C, which is expected to raise $300 million annually through an imposed tax on businesses with income above $50 million to raise funds for supportive housing and homelessness services.
  • Santa Cruz, CA: voters rejected Measure H, which would have authorized $140 million in bonds for affordable housing.
  • Santa Cruz, CA: voters rejected Measure M, a citywide rent control proposal that would have required relocation assistance for tenants evicted without just cause and limited rent increases in apartments built before 1995.
  • Pacific Grove, CA: voters approved Measure M to restrict short term rentals in the city by keeping them out of most residential areas. 
  • West Marin, CA: voters approved Measure W, which authorizes a transient occupancy tax that is expected raise an estimated $1.3 million annual revenue dedicated to fire and emergency services and long-term community housing.
  • San Diego County, CA: voters rejected Measure W, which would have established a program of Residential Rent Control, including just cause of eviction regulations and rent stabilization provisions.
  • Berkeley, CA: voters approved Measure O, which authorizes $135 million in bonds for affordable housing.
  • Berkeley, CA: voters approved Measure P, which authorizes a 1 percent tax increase on the top third of property transfers to help fund services for Berkeley’s homeless population.
  • Berkeley, CA: voters approved Measure Q, new rent control legislation for the city of Berkeley (Measure Q will not go into effect because it was tied to state Proposition 10, which voters rejected).
  • Santa Rosa, CA: voters rejected Measure N, which would have authorized $124 million in bonds for affordable housing.
  • Mountain View, CA: voters approved Measure P, a per-employee “head tax” that will be imposed on companies per employee. The tax will range based on the size of a company and could generate as much as $6 million annually, some of which may go to housing.
  • Santa Clara, CA: voters approved Measure A, a sales tax renewal expected to generate $50 million annually for the general fund, some of which may be used for housing and homeless programs.
  • East Palo Alto, CA: voters approved Measure HH, a parcel tax on commercial office space over 25,000 square feet. The tax will generate an estimated $1.675 million dedicated to job training opportunities and affordable housing.
  • Oakland, CA: voters approved Measure W, a vacancy tax to help finance affordable housing and pay for homeless programs.
  • Oakland, CA: voters approved Measure X, a real estate transfer tax to help finance affordable housing and pay for homeless programs.
  • Richmond, CA: voters rejected Measure T, a vacancy tax that would have financed affordable housing, paid for homeless programs and revitalized blighted communities.
  • Napa County, CA – voters approved a hotel tax that will raise nearly $5 million annually in dedicated funds for affordable housing and homelessness programs. This measure appeared as Measures I, F, H, D, E and S in various parts of the County. 
  • San Juan County, WA: voters approved Proposition 1, which allocates 0.5% of the selling price for county owned real estate to different organizations to develop and preserve affordable rental and homeownership programs.
  • Oregon: voters approved State Measure 102, changing the state constitution to allow local governments to use bond money in partnerships with private business and nonprofits to build affordable housing.
  • Portland, OR: voters approved Measure 26-199, authorizing $653 million in bonds for affordable housing. 
  • Austin, TX: voters approved Proposition A, authorizing $250 million in bonds for affordable housing.
  • Telluride, CO: voters approved Ballot Issues 2A and 2C, authorizing an increase to mill levy that will generate an estimated $554,000 annually for affordable housing. Voters rejected Ballot Issue 2B, which would have increased a sales and use tax to finance the construction of affordable housing.
  • Charlotte, NC: voters approved the Charlotte Housing Bonds Measure, which will direct $50 million in municipal bond proceeds to the city’s housing trust fund, an increase from $15 million annually.
  • Flagstaff, AZ: voters rejected Proposition 422, which would have authorized $25 million in bonds for affordable housing. 
  • Bellingham, WA: voters approved Proposition 2018-5, authorizing a levy for low-income housing, to fund the production and preservation of homes, rental assistance, support services and down payment help for low-income homebuyers. 
  • Chicago, IL: voters approved the Rent Control Referendum for Wards 35, 46 and 49, a nonbinding expression of support of having the state repeal its rental control preemption law.
  • Chapel Hill, NC: voters approved a $10 million bond for affordable housing.
  • Broward County, FL: voters approved the creation of an affordable housing trust fund. 
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