Housing California Releases “Ballot Guide 2020” to Educate Voters on Important Housing-Related Direct Legislation

“California Ballot Guide 2020” is now available to voters preparing to cast ballots in the upcoming November election. Housing California, an NLIHC state partner, released the new resource as an outline of ballot propositions that ask voters to decide the direction on specific policies related to housing. “California Ballot Guide 2020” provides a quick overview and recommended position on nine propositions that address issues covering housing affordability, healthcare, tax fairness, racial justice, and criminal justice.

Ballot propositions are a form of direct democracy that allows the public to vote on statutes that affect their everyday lives. Housing is being increasingly addressed through ballot questions; for more information, see NLIHC’s review of housing-relevant ballot initiatives from 2018 in the “Affordable Housing Wins” report. Housing California’s advocacy work in support or opposition of ballot initiatives is fully legal and appropriate, and an important activity for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. In terms of allowable campaign activities, endorsing a ballot proposition is different from endorsing a political candidate or political party.

“California Ballot Guide 2020” not only provides important information to the public about what each ballot proposition means, but also encourages a specific voting position. Some propositions covered in the Guide address housing specifically such as Propositions 15, 19, and 21. Other propositions are covered because of their impacts on low-income people throughout California. As the document states, “Housing and homelessness are at the intersection of so many other issues. For that reason, Housing California is also weighing in on propositions that impact racial justice, health, criminal justice, and economic opportunity.” Housing is on the ballot in November – not just in California but across the nation. NLIHC applauds Housing California’s advocacy work around voter education.

Housing-related ballot questions

  • Proposition 19 would allow qualified Californians 55 years or older to transfer their property tax when buying a new home. It would also limit the inherited property tax rates on primary residences. Housing California urges voters to oppose this measure. The ability of California homeowners to lock in property tax rates has long been at the core of the state’s budget difficulties. This proposition would only exacerbate the revenue problems that leave scarce funding available for essential services such as those needed by people experiencing homelessness.
  • Proposition 20 would increase penalties for certain property crimes and repeated parole violations. Many of the crimes reclassified as felonies under this proposition would increase the criminalization of homelessness and other activities of already marginalized low-income communities or communities of color.
  • Proposition 21 would allow cities to pass rent control measures on rental housing more than 15 years old. It would include an exemption for small landlords and allow landlords to gradually increase rent 15% over three years following a vacancy. Housing California is supportive of Proposition 21 because it promotes stronger housing stability for renters and neighborhoods.

Other ballot questions discussed in “California Ballot Guide 2020”

  • Proposition 14 would issue over $5 billion in general obligation bonds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Housing California urges voters to support this initiative because of stem cell research has the potential to unlock life-saving medical treatments for Californians.
  • Proposition 15 would reassess property taxes for large businesses and require that their tax base be reflective of the property’s current market value instead of the market value when the property was purchased. This reform is among many being advanced in California to make communities more equitable.
  • Proposition 16 would restore affirmative action, allowing state institutions to consider an applicant’s race, gender, and ethnicity in hiring. This would repeal Proposition 209 from 1996, which struck down preferential treatment in public employment, education, or contracting.
  • Proposition 17 would restore voting rights to Californians who have previously been convicted of felonies but are still on parole.
  • Proposition 22 would exempt app-based ride companies such as Lyft and Uber from a new state law requiring them to treat workers as employees. The current classification of drivers as “independent contractors” prevents them from accessing their rights as workers. Housing California is urging a “no” vote.
  • Proposition 25 would fundamentally change the bail system. The current cash-bail system would be replaced with an algorithm that considers safety and flight risk. Housing California urges voters to oppose this proposition because it addresses an imbalance in the justice system that currently favors wealthy people who can afford large bail amounts.

For additional information on the propositions discussed, or if you have questions about state-level advocacy, contact David Zisser, associate director at Housing California at: [email protected]