From Oahu to Asheville, voters will be asked to help fix the housing crisis

Wed, 2016-10-19 12:01 -- Liz Enbysk

At the bottom of this piece, you'll find links to articles that highlight some ways innovative technologies are helping people without homes and those in danger of losing their homes. But technology alone can't solve the housing crisis that is responsible for so much suffering around the world. It's going to take money, too. On Nov. 8, scores of cities and counties across the U.S. are asking voters to reach into their pockets to help pay for more low-income housing. We've highlighted some of those efforts to demonstrate various approaches local governments are using.

From Oahu to South Miami, San Francisco to Boston, voters will be asked on Nov. 8 to decide ballot measures intended to – in one way or another -- ease the affordable housing crisis that has so many low-income residents struggling to keep a roof over their heads and alarming numbers of people living on the streets, in cars and in homeless encampments.

As you'll see below in our quick summary of just some of measures being decided next month, lack of affordable housing isn't just a big-city issue nor is it restricted to one part of the country.

Asheville, NC: About a third of the city's $74 million bond referendum is pegged for affordable housing. According to the Citizen-Times, $10 million would go to land banking, or using city-owned land for affordable housing. Money would also go into a housing trust fund for rentals and a loan fund to help people build houses to own.

Baltimore: Low- and extremely low-income households would benefit if voters approve an amendment to the city charter establishing an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. An affordable housing advocacy group collected signatures to get the amendment on the ballot. The goal is to provide more affordable rental housing in Baltimore and assist low and moderate-income residents build a path to home ownership.

Boston: Fifteen years after a first attempt to win voter approval, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) is back on the ballot in Boston next month. "For a 1% surcharge, the CPA will unlock tens of millions of dollars for housing every year, while protecting open space and historic buildings," Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce according to the Boston Globe. The mayor has said he’s “all about” using the act to build more affordable homes and rental units.

Los Angeles: Proposition HHH, if approved, would raise property taxes to the tune of $1.2 billion to provide housing for the city's estimated 28,000 homeless residents. According to the Los Angeles Times, which has urged a "yes" vote on the proposition, most of the money would go toward permanent supportive housing for thousands of the city's chronically homeless residents. LA voters will also decide a labor-sponsored initiative that the Times says "would impose some of the nation's most demanding affordable-housing and wage mandates on privately funded development."

Oahu: A charter amendment asks voters to reconsider the criteria in the island's Affordable Housing Fund and allow it to be used to develop rental housing for persons earning 60% or less of the median household income, provided that the housing remains affordable for at least 60 years.

Portland, OR: The city is asking voters to authorize a property tax increase to support $258.4 million in general obligation bonds that would fund 1,300 affordable housing units for low-income families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

San Francisco: Several measures on the ballot address the city's monumental homeless challenge. Proposition J would allocate $50 million a year for homeless services, including housing and navigation centers while Proposition K would raise the city's sales tax 0.75% to pay for it. Proposition Q would crack down on tents on sidewalks without permits;  Proposition R would create Neighborhood Crime Units and task police officers with moving aggressive panhandlers and those blocking sidewalks into shelters or services and Proposition S would require the city to allocate a portion of hotel tax money to family homelessness.

Vancouver, WA: If voters approve a property tax increase, the city will create an affordable housing fund with three main objectives. The money would be used to increase housing supply, preserve existing housing and prevent homelessness. "We as a community will evolve and prosper in our neighborhoods, schools and businesses if everybody has the opportunity to be contributing citizens," Mayor Tim Leavitt told The Columbian.

How technology is helping the homeless:
Hard data and warm hearts: A formula for ending homelessness
Australian demonstrates the power of the web to help those in need
Social media powers efforts to help the homeless – and they're working
Shoes? Sleeping bag? New Seattle app enables personal donations to homeless
One Home: A Free Affordable Housing Search Tool in the Bay Area (video)
Los Angeles moves to 'crack the code' on homelessness


This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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