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Ballot Measures Bring More Power to the People

ront view at multi-ethnic group of people standing in row and wearing masks at polling station on election day, focus on two African-American people registering for voting

In 2020, the number of ballot measures decreased slightly as efforts to meet signature thresholds and qualification deadlines were hampered by COVID-19. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic interfered with outreach efforts to educate voters on important issues to varying degrees. Despite these challenges, the presidential election turned out record numbers of voters on November 3, and voters throughout the nation decided the fate of 120 statewide ballot measures and many more at the city and county level. Below is a sampling of those affecting the rental housing industry.   

Affordable Housing Investment

  • Measure 26-218—a proposed payroll tax on employers with 26 or more employees to fund transportation investments (including a light rail line and rapid bus network as well as improved access to affordable housing near transportation investments)—was defeated by Portland-area voters in Oregon, with 58 percent voting no.
    • Also known as the Get Moving 2020 measure, it was referred to voters by the Metro Council would have funded more than 150 safety, transit, bridge and roadway projects in major corridors and communities across Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

Renter Protections

  • Boulder, Colorado voters approved ballot issue 2B, “No Eviction Without Representation,” by a margin of 59-41 percent.
    • The measure calls for the city to fund:
      • Legal defense for renters paid for by increased city taxes and rental registration fees for housing providers in the city;
      • Rental assistance for vulnerable renters; and
      • A “Tenants’ Committee” to oversee these programs for renters.
  • Portland, Maine voters approved Question D, “An Act to Protect Tenants,” by a margin of 58-42 percent.
    • The referendum will:
      • Cap most annual rent increases to the rate of inflation;
      • Create a rent board to adjudicate petitions for additional rent increases;
      • Require a 75-day notice requirement for rent increases with the option to appeal to the rent board;
      • Require 90-days advance notice to vacate; and
      • The referendum also calls for “source of income” to be added to the protected categories under the City’s fair housing laws.
  • Importantly, in a big win for the industry, California’s Proposition 21, which would remove necessary restrictions on local powers to enact rent control in the state, has failed with 60 percent of voters voting no.
  • Also in California, Sacramento Measure C, which called for more stringent rent control in the city, failed by a margin of 60-39 percent.
    • The measure proposed to cap annual rate adjustments according to the consumer price index, with a minimum increase of 2 percent and a maximum of 5 percent, and establish a rent board to adjudicate petitions for additional increases and develop penalties for noncompliance and implement just cause eviction restrictions.
    • Housing providers could not terminate a tenancy unless one of nine specified conditions exists. Under four of those conditions, providers would be required to provide relocation assistance of at least $5,500.

Legalization and Decriminalization of Street Drugs

Minimum Wage Increases

  • Portland, Maine voters also approved Question A which increases the minimum wage to $15 ($18 for city employees for any work performed during an emergency declared by the state or the municipality if that emergency applies to the employee’s geographical workplace). City staff are analyzing the impacts of the referendum questions that passed.
  • Florida’s Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15, has passed by a margin of 61-39 percent, barely clearing the threshold for approval. It raises the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30, 2021 and then increases annually by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour in 2026, when it then reverts back to annual adjustments for inflation.

Tax

  • As of this writing, California’s Proposition 15, which would require commercial properties to be taxed based on their market value rather than their purchase price, has failed by a margin of 52-48 percent. Prop 15 would have unraveled Proposition 13’s longstanding property tax protections, which includes residential properties in the state.