State Elections: Proposition Would Fund Low-Income Housing

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A proposition on the November ballot could help alleviate Berkeley's homeless problem if passed.

On election day, the state will ask voters whether or not to sell $2.1 billion in bonds to fund 21 types of housing projects in Proposition 46, the Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2002.

Among the housing projects that would receive money from the bonds are low-income housing, battered women's shelters and emergency shelters for homeless families with children.

Funds would also be allocated to assist low- and moderate-income home-buyers to pay down payments through grants or loans.

In 1999, 8.3 percent of families in Berkeley were below the poverty level, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Berkeley shelters such as the Berkeley Emergency Food and Housing Project and The Women's Refuge may be among those which receive funds.

"We need money for our housing projects in Berkeley," said City Councilmember Miriam Hawley.

Though the proposition does not allocate funds for student housing, Hawley said the extra funds may free up money for student housing projects.

"(The passage of Proposition 46) will relieve pressure off the funds available at the city (level) for low-income housing and help developers include projects that will help students," Hawley said.

Proponents said it will also create 276,000 construction jobs and help improve California's economy.

"We certainly welcome anything that would be of assistance," said Debra Anderson, director of development for the Bay Area Rescue Mission. "As the largest homeless shelter in the Bay Area, we try to squeeze $2 out of every $1, so we would be grateful for any help."

But opponents of the proposition said California is already on the verge of bankruptcy and passage of the bill would only push the state farther into debt.

In the future, California may have to cut programs and raise taxes to pay it back, said Senator Ray Haynes, R-Riverside, who co-authored the official argument against the proposition in the California Voter Information Guide.

The bond gives priority to projects in major urban areas, which opponents argued in a statement, are the "least desirable places to live and raise children."

"Most problems with housing are because of government regulations," Haynes said. "The government has made it impossible to build. Here, we're just creating more government. We need to get rid of government-not make more government."

Haynes said California will be entering the next budget year with an $11 to 15 billion deficit.

"Battered women's shelters, low-income housing are all nice selling tools, but we don't need to borrow money to do that," Haynes said.

Haynes also questioned the need for building more battered women's shelters.

"If you can't put people in, what's the good of having the building?" he asked.

Other programs that would receive money from the bond would be social services for the homeless and mentally ill, military veteran homeownership assistance, improvements to existing emergency shelters, and improvements to apartments for handicapped citizens.

"(The bill) is particularly useful for nonprofit developers who need loans to get projects off the ground," Hawley said.

Of the 150,000 houses and apartments built in California each year, the majority are built using private funds, while some receive subsidies from federal, state, and local governments, according to the legislative analysis.


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