On November 8th, Bay Area voters will have several measures to vote on to help address the housing crisis. Policies including a rent cap, vacancy taxes, and bonds for affordable housing are all on the ballot. View Urban Habitat’s full voting guide
Ballot measures like the rent cap in the City of Richmond and vacancy tax measures in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz can help prevent the displacement of low-income communities of color. For example, a vacancy tax can make sure that housing is available to rent instead of being kept vacant until corporate landlords can charge exorbitant rents or sell it for a large profit. The revenue collected can be used to address the housing crisis by investing in affordable housing or programs to support tenants and unhoused residents.
Vacancy tax measures have the potential to have a domino effect and serve as a model for other Bay Area cities and beyond. Vacancy taxes are relatively new, but showing positive results. In 2016, Canadians voted to add a 1 percent vacancy tax onto properties that have sat vacant for more than six months. By 2018, the tax had gone into effect in Vancouver and had successfully reduced the city’s vacancy rate by 15 percent. Additionally, rent prices had fallen by as much as 30 percent.
More and more, voters are playing a leading role in helping to solve the housing crisis, filling the void created by the lack of political leadership to take real action. As tenants are growing in numbers, particularly in the outer parts of the region, they are tired of waiting for their political leaders to solve the problem. Ballot initiatives like the vacancy tax are crucial local solutions to solve our regional and national affordable housing crisis.