Colorado Ballot Measures To Fund Affordable Housing Pass
Election day delivered a slate of affordable housing wins across Colorado. In Vail, a newly approved 0.5% sales tax increase is expected to generate $4 million a year for affordable housing. It is the town’s first sales tax increase since 1974, according to the Vail Daily. Sales taxes for affordable housing were also raised in the towns of Lafayette and Basalt, and additional measures to raise taxes from short-term rental housing like AirBnB passed in Avon, Crested Butte, Leadville, Ouray and Telluride, according to Colorado Public Radio. The measures were overwhelmingly popular because people living and working in Colorado’s mountain towns have found it increasingly harder to afford living there, CPR reports.
Twin Cities Pass Historic Rent Control Measures
New rent control measures passed in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, although the details couldn’t be more different. In the former, the city will put a 3% annual cap on rent increases, one of the strongest rent control provisions in the country, while Minneapolis voted to kick the policy details down to the City Council, according to Minneapolis Public Radio.
A study commissioned by Minneapolis in advance of the ballot proposal suggested rent controls would not curb new housing construction. But in St. Paul, where the 3% cap goes into effect sometime next year, developers immediately started putting new housing projects on hold, reports the Star Tribune. The new rent controls will include new housing construction as well as existing housing stock. Tram Hoang, with Housing Equity Now St. Paul, which backed the ordinance, told the Star Tribune those developers are bluffing.
“This happens in every city where new regulations are passed … because they want to scare the city into changing the ordinance,” Hoang told the Tribune.
Incoming Boston Mayor Michelle Wu Ran On Affordable Housing, Now Faced With Decision on Homeless Encampment
Some Boston housing advocates celebrated the election of Michelle Wu, who ran on a robust housing policy platform. Wu supports rent control in Boston, although that would require a change to state law. She also supports banning credit checks for certain types of affordable units, allowing more ADUs to be built, funding community land trusts and allowing 100% affordable housing projects to pass without lengthy public review.
Wu, who will be sworn in next week, will quickly have to make decisions on the city’s housing crisis and how the city will treat its unhoused residents. A day after winning election, a coalition of advocates called on her to stop the city’s homeless encampment sweeps in the “Mass And Cass” intersection, where the homelessness and opioid crisis have coalesced, according to the Boston Globe. In a public statement, the coalition called on the city to instead put in place “evidence-based practices of low threshold housing, voluntary treatment, and harm reduction, not involuntary commitment and criminalization.” On Wednesday, Wu appointed the city’s former coronavirus public health chief as a cabinet-level adviser specifically tasked with handling the Mass and Cass encampment, according to the Boston Herald. She has previously called for a public health approach to the encampment and called for low-barrier affordable housing for its residents, but has not publicly ruled out sweeps.
Supportive Housing Tenant Group Forms in New York City
The first tenant group advocating for people in supportive housing formed in New York City, and members held a rally in front of City Hall attended by Next City. Supportive housing is affordable housing with on-site social services, often reserved for people exiting homelessness, people with mental illness or those leaving jail or prison. The group is advocating for a bill that would enshrine a “bill of rights” for supportive housing tenants, which would include a right to rent receipts, as well as information about the building’s regulatory status, ownership and funding stream. Attendees of the rally spoke about being turned away from supportive housing for having an emotional support animal, as well as being turned away for not having a mental health diagnosis deemed severe enough. According to a city council report shared with The City, prospective tenants have also been turned away from supportive housing for not being interested in services or being too high-need.
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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.