Berkeley City Council voted at its regular meeting Tuesday to place an item on the November ballot to create a $135 million bond for affordable housing.
If two-thirds of voters approve this ballot measure, property tax would increase and the funds from the increased taxes would be used to acquire, develop and create affordable housing. The affordable housing is set to serve income levels from extremely low- to middle-income.
“Diversity is part of what makes this city such an amazing place,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín during the meeting. “That diversity is threatened by rising housing costs and displacement.”
The affordable housing bond measure specifically aims to create housing for working families and teachers, as well as vulnerable populations such as seniors and veterans. The council expressed a desire to work with the Berkeley Unified School District to build housing for teachers on district land.
Real Equity and Access to a Livable Berkeley submitted a letter in support of the affordable housing bond measure. The letter notes the lack of housing for various income levels and the gap of units needed to meet that demand. Berkeley resident Kim Kruckel was among those who signed the letter.
“I want the city to recognize all the income bandwidths in need,” Kruckel said during public comment.
Many in public comment and on the council said they were concerned about allowing the money to go to for-profit companies, which are able to utilize the affordable housing tax credit from the state and federal government. Ultimately, the council decided to allow nonprofit organizations to partner with for-profit companies in order to take advantage of these government funds.
In addition to the affordable housing bond, the council submitted a revised proposal to restructure the police oversight body, the Police Review Commission, or PRC, for input from affected parties.
The proposed charter amendment would change the PRC by broadening its authority and strengthening its powers. Many at public comment expressed their desire for police reform.
“This is better than what we have right now, in my opinion,” said PRC member Terry Roberts during public comment.
The next step is a meet-and-confer process, where the city meets with affected parties to get input on the proposed amendment. Some members of the council said they hoped that this will be completed in time to place the charter amendment on the November ballot, but others expressed concerns about rushing the process.
The city manager also raised concerns that the office would not be able to meet with affected parties and come back with a proposal in the time frame provided.
The PRC has proposed its own version of the amendment, which the City Council is working to amend.
“If the employees wanted a compromise, this is a window of opportunity to get a compromise,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “We are trying to extend an olive branch.”