Measure U, the City of Sacramento sales tax measure, was approved by voters on November 6. On April 1 next year, sales tax will rise from 8.25 to 8.75%. To prepare for the revenue, the City has already announced an Advisory Committee and a smaller Investment Committee to advise on distribution of Measure U funds. One of the uses of funds most articulated by the Mayor and many other city officials was to alleviate the housing crisis and support those most hurt by escalating rents. From the time, Measure U was first proposed, the Sacramento Housing Alliance’s board of directors has been exploring the opportunity presented by these funds to create a real solution to homelessness through the development of affordable housing, as well as providing immediate protection for renters and relief to homeless residents of Sacramento.
Most importantly, to provide permanent solutions, SHA will work with the City to create a fund to support the development of affordable housing for lower income households. Measure U revenue is a finite resource, and the focus of housing programs supported by these funds should be to help those individuals and families most shut out of the housing market. Measure U funds are also a critical resource for accessing the new State funds made available from the voters’ passage of Propositions 1 and 2. These important state funds are distributed statewide on a competitive basis. Only communities which contribute local funds can compete effectively. As a result, using Measure U funds to leverage new State resources is one of the most important uses of Measure U. . Without this tool, the City of Sacramento could lose its opportunity to access significant new state funds.
The development of affordable housing takes time, so SHA will also be discussing the use of Measure U funds to provide support for renters, including ideas such as an expansion of legal counsel for tenants facing evictions. In the communities where it has been used, the right to legal counsel has decreased evictions, facilitated out of court solutions and helped keep renters in their homes.
SHA will also examine other possible uses of Measure U revenue to provide immediate relief to homeless people, including expanding temporary shelter capacity, especially for people who are not a focus of traditional shelters, including single women and elderly and disabled people. We will look at models of safe parking lots that provide security, services, housing search assistance and support to people living in their vehicles. To encourage rental property owners to rent to people experiencing homelessness who hold vouchers, SHA will be discussing the possibility of using Measure U revenue to set up a fund to provide expanded security deposits to provide owners renting to these voucher holders an added layer of security.
Measure U revenue provides an exceptional opportunity to leverage State funds for affordable housing development, and this opportunity, along with the many options for providing immediate protections and relief for renters and homeless individuals and families, will be a focus of SHA’s work over the next several months. We invite our members to engage with us in this conversation, and we urge officials in other jurisdictions to devise their own sources of revenue to take advantage of the opportunities that Propositions 1 & 2 provide.