Berkeley City Council approved 18 months of Measure P funding, allocating potentially $11 to 13.5 million of funding to homelessness services for the city of Berkeley.
The city has received about $2.9 million from Measure P so far this fiscal year, which began in July. The measure, approved by voters last year, raised the tax on real estate transfers by 1% and has the potential to generate $6-8 million a fiscal year to fund services to the homeless community.
The council approved an allocation budget submitted by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín with a 6 to 3 vote at its regular Tuesday meeting.
The city will allocate 28% of funding to permanent housing subsidies and services — 15% of which will be reserved for homeless families — while shelters and other accommodations will receive 36%, according to a press release from Arreguín’s office.
“I am thankful for the voters for approval Measure P, allowing us to make these significant investments to raise people out of homelessness,” Arreguín said. “This is another step forward in our commitment to prioritizing the needs of our most vulnerable residents.”
While supporters of the funding allocations called the budget proposal “bold,” City Councilmember Lori Droste, who was one of the nay votes, pointed to inconsistencies in the approved budget as one of the reasons why she voted against the budget.
“There were three different proposals with demonstrably inaccurate information,” Droste said.
She cited inconsistencies between the first page of the mayor’s submitted budget, an overview of the allocations and the actual line items listed on the next page.
Droste added that permanent housing subsidies added for families will not be in effect unless the revenue from Measure P exceeds $6 million.
“Zero dollars were allocated to permanent supported housing unless the revenues surpass $8 million,” Droste said. “I support Measure P. I campaigned for Measure P. … I’m not saying don’t spend it, I’m just saying if we’re going to say we help homeless families, we need to actually allocate funding.”
City Councilmember Sophie Hahn, who voted for the budget, also said there was “no justification for withholding services” by not approving the funding allocation.
“Homelessness is the most important crisis we face in Berkeley on a day-to-day basis. It’s a human rights abuse, and the level of suffering is a disgrace,” Hahn said. “We are facing an emergency, and we have to move quickly. … Every person that we help is one more person helped.”
In addition to allocating money to city shelters and other local services, the budget allocated $117,000 specifically to the Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, Tiny House Village for the next 18 months.
The village, which YSA executive director Sally Hindman called an “Oakland-Berkeley partnership addressing the regional crisis of youth homelessness in East Bay” will increase Berkeley’s youth housing by 48%.
“The Measure P funding is one more step towards the project opening as the first-in-nation tiny youth village,” Hindman said. “It’s critical funding that we needed to have to open the project. We’re pleased.”
The money will fund case management by YSA for the tiny village, which is currently projected to open in July 2o20, according to Hindman. YSA also received $360,000 for day-to-day operation costs from the city of Oakland.
YSA currently has 15 tiny houses built and is partnering with several local schools to build four more houses, according to Hindman.
Next spring, the organization is planning to build seven more houses to create a total of 26 houses that will form the village.
Assistant project manager and YSA board member Reginald Gentry emphasized the importance of the Measure P funding, which fulfilled YSA’s original request.
“YSA is an interfaith, nonprofit organization, so we get pretty much all our money from private donors and the city,” Gentry said. “It’s super important that they came through.”