Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions.

Berkeley’s biggest landlords hired teams of signature gatherers to put Measure DD on the ballot. They aim to confuse the voters so the big landlords would pay only a smaller increase. If DD gets more votes, Berkeley will have far less, (only $1.1 million) for much-needed affordable housing and services.

Measure U1 has limited exemptions to protect small landlords, encourage new housing development and encourage landlords to be socially responsible. The big landlords have already spent over $500,000 trying to mislead voters, deluging mailboxes with expensive, deceitful campaign pieces trying to portray good public policy as a “give-away”.

Measure U1 will raise three times more money to fund affordable housing and help families at risk compared with Measure DD.

That’s why the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, unions, advocates for the elderly and disabled, the Berkeley Tenants Union and many more ask you to vote Yes on U1 and No on DD. (For more information, see www.fundaffordablehousing.org.)

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Stephen Barton is Co-Chair of the Yes on U1 campaign. Now retired, he served as the Berkeley Housing Director and as Deputy Director of the Rent Stabilization Program.