Op-ed: Don’t be misled by big landlords who will spend $1M to defeat Measure U1

Berkeley’s biggest landlords have already spent $800,000 and are on track to spend $1,000,000 by Election Day. If they are successful they will save millions of dollars every year and prevent the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing. Of course, they can’t just say “vote to save big landlords money”, so they hide behind a smoke screen. They created Measure DD, which raises only a token amount for affordable housing and they mail out phony accusations against Measure U1, generated in focus groups by their high-priced consultants.

So let’s compare accusations and reality. (For a full list with responses, see our web site, www.fundaffordablehousing.org.)

Measure U1 exempts small landlords with less than 5 units and Measure DD does not, but the big landlords say Measure U1 is hard on small landlords.

Measure DD creates an expensive new City commission that duplicates the work of the Housing Advisory Commission and Measure U1 does not, but the big landlords say U1 creates a costly bureaucracy.

New rental housing developers prepay the tax for at least the next 25 years with up-front payments of $20,000 to $34,000 per market-rent unit to the City affordable housing fund. Or they can make 17% of the project affordable to very low-income people for the life of the building. In return, U1 gives a temporary 12-year tax reduction.

After twelve years, new rental buildings will pay 2.88% of gross receipts under U1, compared to only 1.5% of gross receipts under DD. But in order to collect taxes from new development, it has to get built. The initial 12-year tax reduction is what makes this possible.

The big landlords always tell us building more housing is the solution to the affordability crisis, but claim U1 is a “give-away” to developers because it has a temporary 12-year tax reduction to encourage building new housing. Inconsistent? They don’t care. In fact, the less new housing gets built, the more money they will make.

And, new development pays property taxes on its full value. The big landlords backing DD are the ones getting the gigantic tax break. They pay property taxes on their older buildings based on a fraction of their current value.

That’s why the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the Alameda County Democratic Party and many more ask you to vote Yes on U1 and No on DD.

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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.