This November 6, 2018, Berkeley voters will consider two important measures to address our housing and homelessness crisis. The information below describes the origin, intent, and accountability of the Berkeley Affordable Housing Bond and Million Dollar Real Estate Transfer Tax.

My office welcomes your questions, comments and feedback. Please share your ideas and suggestions to help us deliver programs that meet Berkeley’s tradition of compassion and innovation.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin

The Growing Need


The number of people experiencing homelessness in Berkeley increased 17% from 2015 to 2017, reflecting the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis. An estimated 1,000 people, or 1% of our population, are homeless, and many more are at risk of losing their homes, being displaced, or unfairly burdened by skyrocketing housing costs.  The Alameda County Point-In-Time count by EveryoneHome determined that 76% lived in Alameda County prior to becoming homeless and 54% have lived here more than 10 years.

Without action, more of our neighbors will end up on the streets. Renters in Alameda County currently need to earn $48.71/hour - nearly four times our minimum wage - to afford the median monthly asking rent of $2,553, according to the California Housing Partnership, a local nonprofit. Too many Berkeley families believe that home ownership will be out of reach for themselves or their children, creating a feeling of hopelessness and despair about their future.


How the Proposals Were Developed

Since 2013, the Housing Task Force has met to identify policy solutions. In 2016, my administration activated the Emergency Operations Center, which doubled shelter capacity within a week, and established the City Council Homeless Ad Hoc Committee. In 2017, we declared the Homeless Shelter Emergency and created the Pathway Project. In 2018, we opened the STAIR Center to focus on prevention, access to permanent and supportive housing, creating an unbroken path from homelessness toward housing and self-sufficiency.

But these actions are just barely keeping up with the need. To make real change, we need resources that match the scale of the problem.


A Compassionate, Innovative Approach


Our trailblazing city values justice and compassion for the most downtrodden, and is a recognized national leader in innovation. That’s why the proposal before you includes two measures: the Berkeley Affordable Housing Bond and the Million Dollar Real Estate Transfer Tax.

The Berkeley Affordable Housing Bond will provide acquisition, rehabilitation, construction and preservation of affordable homes in order to house seniors, veterans, working families including teachers, and vulnerable populations. These resources will partner with mission-driven affordable housing developers to create permanently affordable homes at extremely, very low, low and moderate income levels. The bond would cost an average approximately $97 per year for a home with the city’s mean assessed valuation of $425,000 (not market price) and continue for 36 years. The measure needs support from 2/3 of voters to be implemented.

The Real Estate Transfer Tax will apply to homes that sell for $1.5 million or more. Funds raised will support critical homelessness services, including prevention, shelter, rental subsidies and supportive services along with job training and housing counseling services for the most vulnerable. Berkeley is actively implementing a “Housing First” model to stabilize people in homes and deliver services that help move them toward self-sufficiency. The measure will also support job training and housing counseling services that help people return to their lives. The tax needs a simple majority to be implemented.


What we will be able to do

If voters approve these two measures, the City of Berkeley can continue working to achieve its housing goals. 


Passing the Berkeley Affordable Housing Bond will allow the city to:

  • Acquire and improve real property for affordable local housing
  • Rehabilitate, preserve or construct affordable housing, including supportive housing, non-profit rental housing, limited-equity cooperatives, community land trusts
  • Issue loans, grants, or other supports to qualified organizations to preserve, rehabilitate or build affordable homes
  • Provide rental housing for extremely low, very low, low, median and middle income households, as well as down payment assistance for workforce households (working families including teachers)

Passing the Million Dollar Real Estate Transfer Tax will allow the city to:

  • Provide homeless services, including, shelter, rental subsidy, supportive services and staffing to implement these programs
  • Assist seniors, transition age youth (emancipated youth, unaccompanied minors, former foster system youth), people with disabilities
  • Provide mental health services, emergency transport, crisis response
  • Job training, housing counseling and desperately needed services

By law, general obligation bonds require annual, independent audits. Transfer tax funds will require annual review and approval by the City Council. If approved, these measures will help us win our fair share of Alameda County or State of California funding by providing local matching funds.

My office welcomes your questions, comments and feedback. Please share your ideas and suggestions to help us deliver programs that meet Berkeley’s tradition of compassion and innovation.

Mayor Jesse Arreguin