Public Comment

Tax the Rich to House the Poor

By Katherine Harr & Jesse Townley, from the Robin Hood Committee
Friday May 09, 2014 - 11:06:00 AM

The most exciting and innovative campaign this year in Berkeley is reaching its first milestone. The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents measure- which slightly increases an existing fee paid by large landlords- would work with the Affordable Housing Initiative to dedicate at least $3.5 million a YEAR to fund affordable housing in town by boosting the anemic Affordable Housing Trust Fund!

This weekend is the FINAL weekend for Berkeley voters to place BOTH measures on the November ballot. We'll be at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market from 10am to 2pm, among many other places. Come on by, sign on, and become a part of history!

What? You want to know what the heck we're gushing about? Read on: 

The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents will increase the business license tax on landlord investors and speculators by 1.9% – the ballot measure will not raise the tax on single family homes, duplexes, and landlords who live in the building and own less than ten units. The increase will not apply to units rented under Section 8 and the measure would eliminate the existing tax on rents from long-term rent-controlled units. In order not to discourage new construction, it allows a 20 year exemption from the increase starting with initial occupancy of the building. 

This 1.9% tax increase is expected to raise $4.5 million annually for the City’s general fund to start with, rising as units occupied by long-term tenants turn over, as 20 year exemptions expire and as rents continue to rise. The tax cannot be passed on to tenants, since current tenants are protected by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

The Affordable Housing Initiative will require the City Council to set aside at least $3 million annually for the Housing Trust Fund, which is used to develop affordable housing for low-income people either through new construction or acquisition and rehabilitation of existing housing by non-profit organizations. The $3 million set-aside is expected to derive from the windfall profits tax revenue described above. Activists consider passage of the tax measure to be the best means of ensuring that the City can invest in affordable housing without reducing other needed services.

Please join hundreds and hundreds of other Berkeley voters and sign THIS WEEKEND to allow these 2 measures to be on our November ballot.

If you want to volunteer, sign, or get more information, go to , e-mail FundAffordableHousing (at) , or call 510-585-FAH1 (3241)