Homelessness comes at the end of a long path where many social systems have broken down. As a problem, it is decades in the making, and is incredibly complex to resolve.
But Homes For San Diegans—now officially known as Measure A on the November 2020 ballot—is an essential first step in doing so.
Measure A, which the San Diego City Council voted in July to add as an official measure on the November ballot, would fund the construction of 7,500 new affordable homes to address chronic homelessness in San Diego County.
Voter approval on Measure A would be a complete game-changer for homelessness in San Diego. It provides access to thousands of affordable homes for veterans, low-wage individuals and families, seniors, and people living with disabilities throughout the County.
What is Measure A and how will it help?
If passed, Measure A would raise $900 million in bond revenue to address homelessness by building affordable and permanent supportive housing in San Diego.
The money would be paid by property owners at a rate beginning at $3.14 and ending at $20.85 per $100,000 of their assessed property value per year. The change in rate occurs because property taxes will rise slowly as the city sells the bonds over time. At the minimum tax rate of $3.14, the median homeowner ($600,000) would pay about $1.50 per month. This would eventually cap out at around $10 per month at the maximum rate of $20.85.
That’s right. For the price of a couple craft beers every month, we could seriously reduce chronic homelessness in our city.
“Homes For San Diegans (Measure A) is an effort to address the biggest civic issue of our time, which is homelessness,” said San Diego Housing Federation Executive Director Stephen Russell, who helped pioneer Measure A.
“We are not endeavoring to solve homelessness entirely,” he said. “But we are here to address it to the scale of the problem.”
In other words, Stephen recognizes that no single ballot measure will ever be comprehensive enough to eradicate homelessness in one fell swoop.
But what Measure A can do is significantly reduce chronic homelessness across San Diego County by providing those folks with the opportunity to access affordable housing. Because the lack of affordable housing is the single biggest obstacle we face in addressing the homelessness crisis.
“We so often tend to focus on that section of the homeless population that has such critical needs,” Stephen said. “But the truth is, there are a lot of homeless people who just need an extremely cheap place to stay.”
Measure A would see to it that 7,500 new homes provide exactly that through permanent supportive housing.
“Permanent supportive housing means offering a lease on an apartment that is extremely low cost, which is the ‘affordable’ part, but it also includes providing County services,” Stephen explained. “These folks will need support if they are going to stay housed.”
What makes Measure A different from past homelessness initiatives?
Certainly, there have been other propositions set forth over the years to solve homelessness in San Diego. One of the most recent was Measure C, which in March just fell short of the supermajority vote it needed to make it to the ballot.
But none of the measures taken thus far have made a significant impact in resolving the crisis. Why will Measure A be any different? Here’s a few reasons.
- It’s a housing-first—not services-first—initiative. Having a safe, reliable roof over one’s head must be the very first step in keeping individuals off the streets long-term. Once the considerable stress and trauma of living on the streets is removed from a person’s psyche, they are then able to fully focus on and utilize the support services they receive to get back on track.
- It provides permanent supportive housing, which doesn’t currently exist. There are many homeless San Diegans who are ready to pull their lives together and start anew. But the permanent supportive housing that’s necessary for them to make this happen doesn’t currently exist. They are stuck in transitional housing. Measure A effectively answers this problem.
- It’s a long-term solution, not patchwork / emergency shelter work. Much of the County’s efforts to solve homelessness to date have been focused on patchwork or emergency shelter solutions. While those services do fill a crucial need, they do very little, if anything, to resolve long-term homelessness.
- Funding is guaranteed. Measure A is a capital campaign, meaning the revenue raised is only used to fund this measure alone. Measure A does not need to worry about “falling through the cracks” or getting cut from the County budget down the line. If passed, Measure A is guaranteed to raise $900 million and can begin building new homes immediately.
- It’s the right time to work on this. During San Diego’s redevelopment years, the city did have capital to work on affordable housing. But at that time, affordable housing was constructed primarily to address the needs of lower-income individuals and families, not those who are chronically homeless. Measure A seeks to address this housing gap.
Why should local business owners support Measure A?
At Business For Good, we do not endorse specific political candidates. Instead, we endorse the policies we believe are most crucial to improving the health, well-being, and livelihood of our local communities.
“We first met with all the ‘players’ of the various homelessness initiatives, and did an internal assessment to determine which one would align most with our value set and have the biggest impact for San Diego,” said Indra Gardiner Bowers, CEO/Co-Founder of 62ABOVE and BFG Homelessness Committee member.
After several months of homework and due diligence, the BFG Homelessness Committee and BFG Board all agreed that Measure A was the policy our organization wanted to wholeheartedly support.
“We have to recognize that with any type of political advocacy, it’ll always be an imperfect game,” said Sam Mazzeo, CEO/Founder of Better APC and BFG Homelessness Committee member.
Sam has worked for over a decade in San Diego’s homelessness advocacy space, with Think Dignity, Main Street Alliance, and now BFG.
“There’s never going to be a ‘golden goose’ policy that does it all,” he said. “But Measure A is by far the best homelessness policy to come along since I’ve been involved in the cause. We all need to rally around policies like Measure A that can really make a meaningful difference, because they only come around so often.”
This goes to why local San Diego business owners should support Measure A. It not only gives them a chance to markedly reduce homelessness in their communities, but it also helps their employees, customers, and bolsters our local economy.
“One of the things we kept hearing from local business owners—particularly in the retail and restaurant industries—was how difficult it was for their front-line staff to have to deal with the homeless problem in San Diego,” Indra said. “It’s a burden for them in a lot of different ways.”
Beyond that, Indra and Sam believe there are three distinct reasons that all San Diego business owners should throw their weight behind Measure A.
- It removes the homeless population from business corridors. Almost every business corridor in San Diego is affected by the homeless community. Therefore, it is in our businesses’ best interest to help move at least a portion—even if it’s a quarter or a third—of that homeless population off the streets into safe housing.
- It provides a path for people to become employable. San Diego’s economy is heavily rooted in the service industry. Yet most of these workers cannot afford to live close to their place of employment on service industry wages. However, with the addition of permanent supportive housing in these metro areas, businesses could easily employ some of the individuals living there. This provides these folks with steady employment and grows their self-sufficiency, while employers can still pay a wage they can afford.
- It’s the neighborly thing to do—especially in mixed-use zones. The buildings that are most impacted by homelessness are mixed-use, with commercial businesses on the first floor and residential units above. By supporting Measure A, business owners in these types of buildings are also showing that they support all the homeowners above their businesses too.
Measure A offers us the extremely rare opportunity to address chronic homelessness in San Diego. As local business owners, we owe it to our employees, our communities, and most of all, to those in need, to be part of the real solution.
To learn more, join us at the Yes on Measure A campaign’s virtual kickoff rally on September 24 from 6-7pm!