Oakland Voters Expand Homeless Services by Passing Measure Q

Voters in Oakland, CA, went to the ballot once again to increase their own taxes in support of ending homelessness. Measure Q passed with 68.08% of the vote, exceeding the super-majority threshold of 66.67%. The vote took place on March 3, but the close nature of the result delayed a declaration of the outcome. Measure Q authorizes the City of Oakland to move forward with a land parcel tax that will generate an estimated $21 million annually to support parks, recreation, permanent housing, and homelessness services.

The parcel tax instituted by Measure Q will charge $148 annually for single-family parcels and $101.08 for multi-family residential parcels, placing the largest burdens on owners of homes in the lowest-density neighborhoods. The parcel tax will vary for commercial properties based on frontage and square footage. There is a specific exemption for low-income elderly property owners.

The ordinance approved by Measure Q specifically states the City of Oakland’s authority to collect revenue through the parcel tax requires at least the maintenance of current funding levels for homeless services. This provision ensures the new funds authorized by Measure Q will augment, rather than replace, current funding for addressing homelessness.

Funding through the parcel tax will be allocated to parks and recreation at 64%, services to address water quality and litter reduction at 5%, and audits of the revenue usage at 1%, with the remainder being allocated to reducing homelessness. The estimated $6.3 million for homelessness will be divided between temporary shelter, transitional or supportive housing, and permanent housing. The City of Oakland can elect to increase the parcel tax each year by either the workforce increase in the San Francisco Bay Area as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor or the change in California’s per-capita personal income as determined by the California Department of Finance.

The measure was advanced by the “Yes on Q” campaign, a broad movement of multi-sector partners. Advocates were optimistic about passage from the outset, but significant spending by opponents resulted in the vote coming in very close to the super-majority threshold. Political action committees supported by the National Association of Realtors and corporate landlords spent more than $100,000 on a direct mail campaign to oppose the measure on the grounds that it unduly increased tax burdens. In the end, the grim reality of public homelessness in Oakland made a strong case for increasing resources.

For more information about Measure Q, visit the Yes on Q website at: yesforoakland.com