Measure N is not needed to develop 3,000 units of low-income housing, contrary to what council members and corporate housing directors claim. The city attorney admits that the last 500-unit low-income Measure Z1 only delivered 242 low-income units. Measure N’s’ public housing projects are not the most effective way to create the 3,000 units of low-income housing Berkeley needs. More importantly, measure N is shortsighted as it lacks provisions for socio-economic diversity in housing.
By California law, a simple majority of voters must approve the construction of low-rent housing that exceeds 50% subsidies. Berkeley has historically prioritized this type of housing as 100% low-income projects. Housing built in this way plays a key role in isolating low-income residents in expensive but inferior, economically segregated apartments. But why do so when there are better ways? Socio-economically diverse housing with fewer than half low-income units has been successful in many cities, like Vienna.
A “No” vote on Measure N challenges the city to re-prioritize the 1986 Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to provide 20% low-income units within market-rate projects and/or a $46,000/unit payment into the Housing Trust Fund. These projects have an excellent record of providing more low-income units to the community. Compared to the 242 units cited under Measure Z1, the inclusionary ordinance has created 265 low-income units and renovated another 150 units since 2016. With market-rate permitting on the upswing, this will continue to be a vital source of low-income units and trust funds.
A “No” vote on Measure N will create demand for innovative projects with up to 49% low-income units like the proposed 4th Street project. This model should be the norm in Berkeley, where integration of economically diverse groups is preferable to segregation. In addition, nonprofit corporate developers, the proponents of Measure N, can still access existing funds from Measures O and P by integrating with market-rate developers to create 50% low-income projects.
A “No” vote on N will ensure we can fulfill Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) low-income housing mandates without a significant burden on taxpayers, 19% of whom are low-income. The financial assistance required for Measure N will be over $2 billion (three thousand units x $750,000 per unit). Bond Measure L is only 10% of what’s needed for 3,000 low-income units. Even after leveraging, Berkeley will pay 625 million plus operational and maintenance costs.
A “No” vote on N sends the message that many Berkeley low-income residents would prefer the chance to become homeowners. The city’s rental-only housing policy results in unequal access to owned housing (the primary path to household wealth in the U.S.). Measure N impedes household wealth since it showers wealth on corporations instead.
A “No” vote on N from students will convey their dissatisfaction with expensive, cramped, market-rate housing so that others targeted by this measure can enjoy spacious, high-quality, and low-cost units. Some students are similarly deserving and/or needy but rarely qualify for subsidized housing, according to the city’s Housing Element.
Councilmember Sophie Hahn recently claimed she is tired of “nickel-and-diming Berkeley” about low-income housing. So, we now have a ballot measure for 3,000 units with no price tag. Vienna-style integrated and diverse housing would be successful and great for the community. But if low-income housing must be built, please tell us how much it will cost. Without a price tag, this measure is a Trojan horse.
Chris Catlett is a retired contractor, David Denton is retired from industrial electronics, Justin Lee is a software designer, Dan McDunn is a builder, Laura Menard is a former Berkeley schools volunteer and Lilana Spindler is an outdoor ed teacher.
The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.
Here are some other helpful election resources:
- The city of Berkeley’s election portal and candidate statements
- Don’t know your Berkeley City Council district? The city website has a handy tool for that.
- Voter’s Edge: View a personalized ballot by entering your address.
- Voter guides from the Daily Cal, CalMatters, KQED, the Bay Area News Group and The League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany and Emeryville
- Check your voter registration status (and sign up to get election materials online).
- Find your voter profile (Alameda County registrar of voters).
See complete 2022 election coverage on Berkeleyside.