November 5, 2020

2020 State and Local Election Results

On Tuesday, millions of Americans cast ballots in one of the most contentious elections in recent history. But beyond the Presidency, voters were asked to make important decisions up and down the ballot – from Congressional leadership to state and local elections that included governors, mayors, county executives, councilmembers and of course, ballot measures.

One of the most unexpected outcomes of state and local elections so far is how little has changed. Consider that 11 gubernatorial seats, nearly 300 mayoral offices and 45 state legislatures encompassing almost 6,000 posts were up for grabs. And yet only 2 of 11 governors’ mansions changed residents, and only one state legislature flipped its political majority. In many ways, the political landscape is unchanged.

With that in mind, it’s important to remember that voters still called for change, weighing in on roughly 125 state-level ballot measures and dozens of local measures. Many of those have direct implications for affordable housing and community development.

Ballot Measures

Hundreds of questions were posed to voters, such as whether to address the process of redistricting (more commonly known as gerrymandering) in Virginia or to remove references to slavery in Nebraska and Utah’s state constitutions. Voters were also asked to support numerous measures that could impact housing affordability, highlighted below: 

  • California Proposition 15 (failed): This attempt to reverse parts of Proposition 13 of 1978 – the infamous measure that capped property tax reassessments at 2 percent per year – would have allowed the taxing of commercial and industrial property based on market value. The resulting increase in tax collections was estimated to generate $12 billion per year for schools and local governments. 

  • California Proposition 21 (failed): This measure would have allowed local governments to pass their own rent control laws on properties that are at least 15 years old, potentially creating a significant expansion of rent control in the state. This is the second failed attempt to partially repeal the state’s limitation on rent control, known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995.

  • San Diego Measure A (failed): Overall, voters rejected a $900 million bond to help fund homeless services and programs. While more than half of voters approved the measure, local laws require a 2/3 majority for passage. 

  • Alameda County Measure W (passed): Voters approved a 0.5% increase on sales tax for the next 10 years to fund services for people experiencing homelessness. The tax is estimated to generate about $150 million annually to fund housing, mental health services, and job training. 

  • San Francisco Proposition A (passed): Voters approved a $487 million bond measure, of which approximately $207 million will fund permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, shelters, behavioral health services, and other efforts to address homelessness. 

  • San Francisco Measure K (passed): This measure authorizes the city to construct, acquire or rehabilitate up to 10,000 units of affordable housing for low-income renters, although it does not identify a funding source.

  • San Mateo Measure Y (failed): This citizens' initiative aimed to maintain construction limitations by extending the expiration date for policies that limit height and density. This measure would have limited development in an area where affordable housing is in short supply. 

  • San Mateo Measure R (failed): This City council measure would maintain current limitations on development but authorize the council to approve changes that exceed limits in certain designated areas such as near transit hubs or as related to affordable housing. Again, this measure would have limited development in an area where affordable housing is in short supply.

  • Sonoma County Measure O (passed): Voters approved a 0.25% increase on sales tax for the next 10 years to fund services for people experiencing homelessness. The tax is estimated to provide $25 million a year for mental health and homeless services. 

  • Charlotte Referendum - Housing Bond (passed): Voters in Charlotte, NC, overwhelmingly approved a $50 million bond issue for the Charlotte Housing Trust Fund and the city's Housing Diversity Program to create and preserve affordable housing.

  • Raleigh Referendum - Housing Bond (passed): This measure authorizes the city of Raleigh, NC, to issue $80 million in bonds for affordable housing, including land acquisition and construction, support for nonprofit homeless service providers, housing rehabilitation programs and affordable homeownership.

  • King County Amendment 2 (passed): This amendment removes a major impediment for developing surplus land for affordable housing in King County and will now allow the county to sell surplus, government-owned land at low or no cost for the purpose of developing affordable housing.

  • Colorado Proposition EE (passed): Increases taxes on cigarette and tobacco products and begins taxing vaping and other nicotine products to generate additional state revenue to support several items, including $35 million for housing assistance. 

  • Colorado Amendment B (passed): Repeals part of the tax code which requires that residential property taxes not make up more than 45% of the state’s overall property tax base, which has contributed to considerable shortfalls in state revenue.

  • Denver Measure 2B (passed): Increases sales tax by 0.25% to create a Homelessness Resolution Fund. Expected to generate $40 million each year and can be used to build new housing, expand shelter capacity, provide permanent supportive housing, and other innovative efforts.

  • Detroit Measure N (passed): With 70% voter approval, this revamped version of a previous "blight bond" will allow the city to issue $250 million in bonds to demolish 8,000 homes and rehab 8,000 homes. The measure includes commitments to local hiring requirements.

  • Ann Arbor Proposal C (passed): Voters in Ann Arbor, MI approved a property tax that is expected to generate $130 million over 20 years for the construction and maintenance of affordable housing as well as support services. 

  • Atlanta Referendum - Homestead Exemption (passed): Voters in Atlanta approved this referendum to create a $30,000 exemption for community land trust (CLT) homeowners in the city of Atlanta. This will ensure CLT homes remain affordable for low-income homeowners. The legislation was passed by the State but required local voter approval.

  • Georgia Referendum A (passed): Georgia voters also approved a measure authorizing a tax exemption for property owned by charitable organizations for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be sold to individuals through no-interest loans. The measure would help grow the stock of affordable housing in Georgia, particularly in small cities and rural communities. 

  • Georgia Amendment 1 (passed): Georgia voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution to allow for the dedication of state revenue for a specific purpose. This change facilitates proposals for the dedication of revenue for housing, among other objectives. 

  • Austin Proposition A (passed): This tax increase to support a new rapid transit system in Austin is a $7 billion investment that will include $300 million for anti-displacement/affordable housing strategies along the transit corridors.

  • Nebraska Amendment 2 (passed): This approved amendment authorizes local governments in Nebraska to use property taxes for redevelopment in extremely blighted areas.

  • Florida Amendment 2 - Raising the Minimum Wage (passed): Florida voters approved this measure to raise the minimum wage to $10/hour effective September 30, 2021. The rate will increase in increments of $1 each year until the minimum wage reaches $15/hour after which the wage will revert to being adjusted annually for inflation.

  • Florida Amendment 5 - Extending Save Our Homes Portability Period (passed): Florida voters approved a measure to extend the period of portability of the Save Our Homes benefit to a new homestead property from two years to three years. According to the Florida Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), this amendment would reduce local property taxes by $1.8 million beginning in fiscal year 2021-22 and would eventually grow to a $10.2 million reduction annually.

  • Florida Amendment 6 - Homestead Tax Discount for Spouses of Deceased Veterans (passed): Florida voters also approved a measure that allows the homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the spouse of a deceased veteran. This property tax discount will remain in effect until the qualifying spouse remarries, sells, or otherwise disposes of the property.

  • Portland (Maine) Question C (passed): The "Green New Deal for Portland" increases inclusionary zoning requirements for affordable housing in new developments, strengthens energy efficiency in construction, and adds new labor rules for city-funded projects. 

  • Portland (Maine) Question D (passed) - Voters approved a form of rent control to cap rent increases at the rate of inflation. The referendum also creates new tenant protections such as increasing the amount of time in which landlord must provide notice before ending at-will tenancy and creating a rent board to mediate landlord-tenant disputes.

Gubernatorial Races 

This week there were 11 gubernatorial races, 9 of which resulted in the re-election of the incumbent governor. In the other 2 states, either the incumbent was not eligible for re-election (Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana) or chose not to seek it (Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah). Only one state – Montana – changed parties, flipping from D to R.

State Legislatures

Of 44 legislatures that were up for grabs, only one – New Hampshire – flipped political control. Put another way, voters were asked to select 5,876 state legislators, and yet only 2 of the nations 99 legislative chambers will see a change in party control. The New Hampshire House and Senate are now under Republican control.

You can find more here on state level results from the National Conference of State Legislatures

Mayoral Elections

While shifts in party control happen less often at the city and county level, changes in leadership can still lead to significant change. 213 mayoral elections took place in small towns and medium-to-large cities earlier this week, but there are another 93 mayoral races scheduled to take place between now and the end of the year, and several dozen more across the territories. You can find more here from the US Conference of Mayors as election results continue to roll in.

One local change worth nothing comes from Los Angeles county where, for the first time in its history, the 5-member Board of Supervisors will consist of all women. The board oversees one of the largest local budgets in one of the largest counties in the nation, and the Supervisors carry considerable power.

Looking Forward

While voters for the most part maintained the status quo among state and local officials, Americans continue usher in change and voice their support for affordable housing. Each year, voters affirm their overall support for more affordable housing and more inclusive communities through their votes on ballot measures. The results from 2020 are no different, and the state and local policy team at Enterprise, along with our valued partners on the ground, will continue to engage our leaders at the federal, state and local level for more affordable housing, inclusive growth and equitable development. 

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