This post was updated following the 2018 midterm elections. See below for ballot measure results.
Whether you are heading to the polls on November 6, voting early, or working to get out the vote, you will see that elected officials are not the only choices voters are facing. State and local ballot measures are also driving voters to the polls this fall.
While the subject of these initiatives varies nationwide, we are watching some key planning-related measures that could have an impact on your community.
Statewide Housing Initiatives
California and Oregon
It comes as no surprise that housing made its way onto the statewide ballot in California in 2018, and not just once. This year, voters from California will make choices on four housing-related ballot measures in addition to those placed on local ballots.
Proposition 1 issues $4 billion in bonds for housing programs and veterans' home loans, approximately $3 billion of which will be dedicated to housing programs. It is important to note that the measure is a result of California Senate Bill 3, passed in the 2017 California Housing Package. SB 3, supported by APA's California Chapter, placed a $3 billion bond before voters to fund affordable housing and related projects.
Proposition 10 is also among those receiving attention. This rent control measure would repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act allowing local governments to adopt rent control with fewer restrictions.
Proposition 5 amends a 1978 ballot initiative, permitting homebuyers who are 55 years of age or older, or severely disabled, to continue paying property taxes based on their current home's value when they sell and buy a new property. This property tax transfer initiative could lead to savings for the older population, but critics note this initiative is likely to have the biggest benefit for wealthier individuals and increase the cost burden on schools due to its effect on property taxes.
Proposition 2, if passed, would authorize the use of revenue from Proposition 63, the millionaire's tax, on $2 million in revenue bonds for homelessness prevention for individuals in need of mental health services.
Lastly, worth highlighting is Oregon's Measure 102 which seeks to remove the restriction that affordable housing projects funded by municipal bonds must be government-owned. Supporters of Measure 102 emphasize that this would facilitate the opportunities available for local governments to work with partners to build and preserve homes at an affordable price.
Housing at the Local Level
Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina
Cities across the country are also responding to the housing affordability crisis by way of the ballot. Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, are among a handful of cities that are asking voters to determine whether they will fund affordable housing via bonds.
Austin's proposition of a $250 million affordable housing bond is the largest housing bond ever to appear on the city's ballot. Proposition A allows the city to issue these funds for the "planning, construction, and renovation of housing facilities for low and middle-income people."
In Charlotte, a $50 million municipal bond measure seeks to fund affordable housing efforts for the next two years, directing the proceeds to Charlotte's housing trust fund. If approved, the amount of funds available for low-income housing would more than triple.
Infrastructure: Transportation, Environment, Broadband
Colorado, California, Missouri, Maine, Rhode Island
State and local ballot measures are also focusing on infrastructure.
In 2016 voters considered over $250 billion in new transportation revenues, and this November there are over 290 transportation measures on ballots across the country. One can see the impact that these measures could have on communities.
Among a long list of ballot measures in Colorado are Proposition 110 and 109, authorizing bonds for transportation projects with and without raising taxes respectively.
APA's Colorado Chapter examined how these measures connect with their legislative agenda and good planning. The chapter supports Proposition 110 because it generates funds dedicated to roads and highways and the provision of multimodal options, among other key items that are beneficial for planners. However, the chapter expressed concerns over Proposition 109 and ultimately opposed the measure, noting that it does not permit a multimodal approach to transportation solutions and uses money from the general fund.
In California, a measure seeks to repeal the gas and diesel tax increases from 2017, requiring voter approval for future tax increases of this type. The "Voter Approval for Future Gas and Vehicle Taxes and 2017 Tax Repeal Initiative," or Proposition 6, initiates a constitutional amendment if passed.
Included as a part of Proposition D in Missouri is the creation of the "Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund" to finance state road improvement projects.
Across the country in Maine, voters will consider several infrastructure-related bond measures: $106 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure, as well as $30 million in bonds for wastewater infrastructure.
Nearby in Rhode Island, a question on the ballot regarding $47.3 million in bonds would authorize this level of funding for environmental, water, and recreational projects. Such projects include coastal resiliency, access to farmland and clean water, and wastewater treatment facilities resilience improvements.
Connecticut, Florida, Colorado
Amendment 1 in Connecticut, the Transportation Revenue Lockbox Amendment, would require that all revenue placed in Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund be used strictly for transportation purposes.
At a more local level, in Hillsborough County, Florida, a vote in favor of the Number 2 Referendum allows the county to raise the sales tax to eight percent for 30 years, designating funds for transportation and road improvements. Estimated to raise $276 million annually, the revenue is to be shared by Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and cities in the county.
In Aurora, Colorado, Measure 3K would determine whether the local authority of broadband services in the city is restored. If passed, it would allow Aurora to develop its broadband service.
For voters in 2018, ballot measures were another mechanism by which they could voice their opinion on what is best for their state and local communities. For planners, housing and infrastructure rose to the top on ballots across the country. Overall, the response to these measures indicated voters' desire to address some of the critical planning issues facing the nation today.
In this election, voters sought solutions to the nation's housing affordability crisis. California voted yes on Propositions 1 and 2, measures that seek to help mend challenges associated with housing affordability. Controversial measure Proposition 10 failed, meaning that the Costa Hawkins Rental Act still stands. Opponents of this measure feared that it would worsen the housing crisis. More than $100 million was spent on this measure. The fourth state housing measure we tracked in California, Proposition 5, failed as well.
Oregon's Measure 102 passed, removing the restriction that affordable housing projects funded by municipal bonds must be government-owned.
Locally, Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, also passed measures to fund affordable housing. Austin's Proposition A passed with more than 73 percent of the vote when the ballots were initially counted. In Charlotte, the $50 million housing bond passed with about 70 percent of the vote. Voters also supported local housing measures in San Francisco; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Bellingham, Washington.
Infrastructure, Land Use
As highlighted by the Eno Center for Transportation, several key transportation-related ballot measures rose to the surface.
Maine's $106 million transportation bond measure passed, as did Connecticut's Amendment 1, restricting revenue in Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund for transportation use only. In Rhode Island, voters said yes to a different type of infrastructure, authorizing $47.3 million in bonds for water, environment, and recreational projects including coastal resiliency and wastewater treatment facilities.
Locally, in Hillsborough County, Florida, voters indicated transportation and road improvements were of importance, passing a measure estimated to raise $276 million annually for this purpose.
A measure in Broward County, Florida, approved a "penny tax" that seeks to fund public transportation by increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. It is projected that this measure will fund nearly $16 billion in transportation improvements.
California's failed Proposition 6 means that the gas and diesel tax increase from 2017 will remain in effect, allowing for further investment in infrastructure.
APA's Colorado Chapter opposed that state's Amendment 74, which failed on the ballot. According to the chapter, Amendment 74 would have had the effect that "no government in Colorado at any level would be allowed to enact any new regulation, such as land use," arguably reducing the fair market value of an existing property right.
Voters in Colorado also rejected Proposition 109 and Proposition 110. While the Colorado Chapter supported Proposition 110, seeking to generate funds dedicated to roads and highways, and permitting a multimodal approach, it opposed 109.
Top image: Getty Images photo.
About the Author
Catherine Hinshaw is APA's state government affairs associate.