In Cities Across The Country, Voters Passed Affordable Housing Measures

From Los Angeles to Boston, urban voters supported various means of making it easier to get an apartment.

In Cities Across The Country, Voters Passed Affordable Housing Measures
[Photo: Todd Quackenbush via Unsplash]

San Francisco–a place where it’s possible to live in an actual closet for $1,400 a month–tends to get the most national headlines about the lack of affordable housing. But the problem is hardly confined to the Bay Area. On Election Day, several cities across the country passed measures to try to help.


In Portland, Oregon, where a one-bedroom apartment now costs 42% more than it did two years ago, voters approved a $258.4 million bond (though some have criticized the fact that it will build or preserve only 1,300 units at $250,000 an apartment; in a recent push for affordable housing in Denver, each new apartment will cost just $25,000 to build.)

In Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco in the heart of Silicon Valley, voters approved a $950 million bond that will fund buying or improving around 5,000 units of affordable housing, and help another 1,000 first-time home buyers.

In Los Angeles, Measure JJJ will require developers of certain residential buildings to guarantee that up to 25% of units will be affordable to low-income tenants. Condo developers will have to make up to 40% of units affordable to moderate-income tenants. But the L.A. Times and others say that the measure may unintentionally worsen housing affordability, because it will make new buildings so much more expensive to build (it also requires developers to hire union labor, adding to the cost).

L.A. voters also approved a $1.2 million bond to fund permanent housing for some of the city’s 28,000 homeless residents. In nearby San Diego, voters approved a measure to lift the city’s cap on subsidized housing units, which will help increase the number of affordable units built.

Boston approved an additional 1% property tax that will partly fund affordable housing, along with parks and historic preservation projects. In Baltimore, the city charter was amended to set up an affordable housing trust fund, though it’s not clear where the money will come from. Rhode Island voters passed a $50 million bond, which includes $40 million for affordable housing and $10 million to revitalize cities like Providence and clean up blight.

North Carolina voters approved a $25 million bond for affordable housing in Asheville, and another $25 million bond in Greensboro that will fund low-income housing, housing for the homeless, disabled, and veterans, and new affordable rentals.


San Francisco also had a win; Proposition C lets the city repurpose funds from a bond for seismic upgrades to acquire and rehab apartment buildings and make them permanently affordable. In Oakland, $100 million of a new bond will go to affordable housing.

Some other cities approved smaller measures, such as Minneapolis, where $9 million will build or preserve nearly 700 affordable housing units.

All of this is likely to help, but probably not enough: 11.4 million Americans pay more than half of their income each month on rent, and twice as many pay more than 30%. Workers earning minimum wage, and working 40 hours a week, can’t afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in any state.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.