San Francisco has 74 billionaires, mostly from tech wealth. But the rest of the city’s 99% are clearly happy to see the super-rich put money toward the city’s yawning income inequality. A majority of them, about 60% of voters, approved a new ballot initiative, Proposition C, that will funnel up to $300 million annually in new taxes on the city’s wealthiest companies to getting San Franciscans off the street and/or keeping them in their homes. Prop C was nothing short of a revolution in how communities view the responsibility of big companies, especially booming tech firms, to care for the cities they both enrich and disrupt.
Barring speedbumps (such as lawsuits over the required threshold for victory), housing and homeless advocates in San Francisco now have to find the best ways to spend the new resources. “We have a really detailed implementation plan with these broad buckets” of funds, says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, which spearheaded the initiative. The four buckets of spending are: 50% for building or acquiring affordable housing, 25% for mental health and addiction services, 15% for rent subsidies and other tenant assistance, and 10% for extra shelter beds and hygiene services.
But there are still a lot of details to work out. It will start with extensive fieldwork in the community, says Friedenbach. “We would start going out to homeless folks that have mental illnesses and addictive disorders and really start . . . collecting data from them on their past experience with the treatment to learn what worked, what didn’t work, what kinds of things that they see as their vision for success,” she says. “What kind of behavioral health system really meets their needs.”
With money and data in hand, Prop C supporters should be well equipped to address problems. And voters who granted them a doubling of funding will now expect results.