On March 29, 2016 the Coalition announced its intention to collect signatures to place a measure on this year's ballot. On May 16 we submitted 3,326 signatures. On June 22 we officially qualified. We needed 1,932 valid signatures in order to qualify with the Alameda County Registrar. On July 12 we were put to the ballot by vote of City Council. On November 8, 2016 we lost our fight against an 166% increase in business taxes on rent-control properties. Below is a history of our fight.
The History (Prior to 2016): Since 2012, City Councilmembers (guided by external supporters of the Rent Board) have been considering an increase in the Business License Tax (what you pay annually on your gross receipts) from its current 1.018% to a possible 4.88%. This is a proposal that would be carried solely on the backs of the Coalition's rent-controlled members. Recognizing that many of you are already doing your part to contribute to housing affordability by renting units at at an average of 42% below market rate, the Coalition knew we had to enact a more fair and equitable tax measure.
Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition
The Fight: After much research, two polls conducted with Berkeley voters and some very serious strategic thought, the Coalition filed papers to raise the business license tax for all providers of rental housing currently being taxed from 1.018% to 1.5%. The higher rate would bring in at least $1.4m additional monies per year to be made available for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs. The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition recognizes the critical crunch around housing affordability and supports the need for more resources to preserve and build additional affordable housing. We feel the fairest way to accomplish that is the across-the-board increase to 1.5% instead of the 2.88% City Council has settled on.
On July 12, 2016 the City Council passed our measure and placed it on the November ballot. This made way for two competing measures for Berkeley voters to decide come November -- Measure DD (ours) and Measure U1 (city-sponsored).
The Lawsuit: On August 18, 2016 the BRHC sued the city of Berkeley to correct misleading ballot language for the city-sponsored measure. This was done after the city admitted to having not included the exemption value in its final revenue calculations in addition to failing to note any of the exemptions related to the tax increase. On August 31, the courts ruled in our favor and we came to agreement with the City of Berkeley for critical changes to their ballot measure. Check out our press releases and media coverage of the lawsuit here. In September the City of Berkeley was made to pay almost $40,000 in legal fees to the BRHC.
The Election: On November 8, 2016 Measure U1 won with an almost 75% vote. Despite the loss at the polls the rental housing providers of Berkeley remain staunch in their fight for fair and balanced housing policies. And we demonstrated that we have the ability to raise significant funds and support for what's right.