Berkeley City Council discusses results of affordable housing survey, moves to create 2nd survey

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Vivian Roan/Staff

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Berkeley City Council met Tuesday night and discussed, among other items, the results of a community survey regarding affordable housing and homeless resource measures, which may be placed on the November election ballot.

The survey was conducted between March 12 and 15, and it gauged the responses of 500 community members to various affordable housing, homeless resource, mental health service and safety measures the council is considering for placement on the ballot. The council ultimately decided to put forth a second survey sometime within the next month with clarified language and some new measures for consideration, according to Councilmember Kate Harrison.  

The initial survey showed that 61 percent of people support either a $50 million or $100 million affordable housing bond and that 63 percent were in favor of a permanent parcel tax to generate $5 million a year toward preserving and expanding homeless services. 49 percent of respondents also cited affordable housing and 47 percent cited homeless services as priorities for the city to address.

“I think the people of Berkeley are committed to us resolving affordable housing and homeless issues,” Harrison said before the meeting.

The money from this housing bond will be used by nonprofit organizations, such as Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, to identify parcels of land that may be converted into affordable housing sites, according to Harrison.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in an email Tuesday that the lack of affordable housing is a statewide problem, and that neither the state nor the federal government have provided any aid.

“Our goal is to create 1,000 new affordable units over the next decade and selling bonds will generate funds for this,” Arreguín said in the email. “Without it, we have $2 million a year to build affordable housing, which doesn’t go very far.”

Harrison also said after the meeting that there was a less positive response to a proposed half percent sales tax for the community safety services, including increased mental health services and community policing.

“It’s hard to know if people are objecting to the mechanism, the amount or the idea,” Harrison said after the City Council meeting. “We’re polling it as a parcel tax in the second survey to see if that makes a difference.”

Instead of a parcel tax for homeless services, such as preserving and expanding existing services, the second survey will also consider an increase in transfer tax on high-value properties to fund these services.

Homeless rights activist Mike Zint said in an email that these measures are “more of the same” and do not provide stability or mental healing for homeless people. Zint added that there is not enough housing to provide for homeless people’s needs and most housing programs are geared toward putting homeless people back on the streets.  

“As far as rapid rehousing, we go right back to ‘where is the housing?’ There is none,” Zint said in an email. “It’s purposefully vacant, or still being talked about. And talked about. And then it’s talked about some more. Where is the action?”

Contact Amanda Bradford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.