Authorizes the City of Oakland to develop up to 13,000 new units of city-owned affordable housing.
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What the Measure Would Do
This measure would allow the City of Oakland to develop, construct or acquire up to 13,000 units of subsidized affordable housing. No revenue source is tied to the housing authorization in this measure, nor would this measure impose new or increased taxes. In 1950, California voters approved the creation of Article 34 in the California State Constitution, which requires that any “low-rent” housing development be approved by voters in the city where it was proposed. The law defines low-rent housing as any subsidized affordable rental housing project that is developed, constructed, acquired or financed by a local government.
Importantly, Measure Q does not provide any funding for affordable housing, nor does it solve the challenges of building it. However, the approval of Measure Q would secure the authorization required under Article 34 for the City of Oakland to unlock 13,000 potential units of affordable housing.
Article 34 is considered a vestige of California’s racist land use and planning history. The law has delayed affordable housing development across the state and weakened efforts to integrate some of the most exclusive suburban communities. It also had a major impact on the state’s housing supply, as it disqualified California from much of the federal government’s public housing spending in the 1950s and 1960s. Currently, no other state constitution requires voter approval for public housing. A number of attempts have been made in recent years to repeal Article 34 at the state level, without success.
Any city in California that wishes to create more affordable housing must go to the voters to ask for approval. Oakland is a progressive city that is seeking to address its housing affordability crisis. This measure would provide the City of Oakland with the opportunity to meet its affordable housing needs.
Councilmember Carroll Fife introduced this measure, and it was approved unanimously for the ballot by the Oakland City Council. As an ordinance, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
To the extent that Measure Q could result in the construction of new affordable homes, it would directly benefit low-income Oakland residents, who face challenges from the city’s rising rents and displacement pressures. People of color are overrepresented in this group and face intersecting barriers and structural inequality in the housing, education, employment and criminal justice systems, among others.
- Clears a legal roadblock for the city to develop, acquire and operate new affordable housing units.
- Potentially increases the number of affordable homes available in Oakland, which are an important and needed part of the city’s housing stock.
- This measure only authorizes potential housing and could send a false signal of success without addressing the zoning, permitting and financing challenges that continue to bar development.
Given the affordability crisis in the city’s residential housing market, SPUR recommends that Oakland voters approve this measure to increase the city’s capacity to develop additional affordable units. SPUR also recognizes, however, that in authorizing public entities to build affordable housing, Measure Q would neither provide the funding nor solve the challenges of actually building it.
 “A Racist Relic Blocks Affordable Housing in California. It Must Go,” editorial, Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-14/editorial-racist-california-article-34-public-affordable-housing.
 Adam Beam, “Lawmakers Push to Repeal Anti-Black Housing Law in California Constitution,” KQED, March 8, 2022, https://www.kqed.org/news/11907336/lawmakers-push-to-repeal-anti-black-housing-law-in-california-constitution.
 SPUR Housing Policy Agenda, 2021, https://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/2021-11/SPUR_Policy_Agenda_Housing.pdf.