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Governance đź“ś Should affordable housing policies be referendums on election ballots?

This controversial topic will begin with two examples and then move to more general discussion.

Durham, North Carolina - November 2019 Election: A $95-Million affordable housing bond referendum was on the ballot.
Raleigh, North Carolina - November 2020 Election: A $80-Million affordable housing bond referendum is* on the ballot.
Referendums on millions of dollars of direct financing for affordable housing is not such a common occurrence at this present time in U.S. history.
What is common are some indirect methods:

  • A political candidate running for (re)election commits to a specific financing of affordable housing. (Or runs against it.)
  • Political candidate does not commit to a specific financing, but has made it very clear that constituents will be voting for and paying for affordable housing initiatives. (Or runs against this policy.)
  • Candidate is affiliated with a political party that has made affordable housing an extremely high priority--or highest priority--in the election cycle. (Or is affiliated with a political party that is opposed to this priority.)
  • (Less common) Affordable housing policy is attached to another referendum on the ballot.
  • Your input.

This topic is controversial partly because of subjective questions that arise from it, such as:

  • What happens if the elected politicians are generally lukewarm towards, or outright opposed to, an affordable housing referendum, and it passes? Specifically, can those politicians implement the referendum in a caring, high-quality manner?
  • Conversely, what happens if the elected politicians are in favor of, or have actually campaigned for, an affordable housing referendum, and it fails? (And what if the referendum fails by a large margin?)
  • To get a referendum on a ballot takes much time and work--therefore, money. Referendums can be very expensive. Is the expense worth the freedom that the voters get to direct approve/reject a financial proposal or a policy?
  • Are there some basic human needs, like "a roof over the head", that should be exempt from public referendums?
  • Your questions.
These are not rhetorical questions; I have no pre-formed opinions or preconceived notions.

Very much looking forward to getting input from Cyburbians on this topic!

*Early voting in N.C. began on October 15.
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Just chiming in with another example...
There are 5 ballot referendums in Portland, Maine this year including affordable housing and rent control that the mayor and city council are opposing because of process rather than policy. (I think there are actually more than 5 referendums total on the ballot this year, Maine loves referendums.)
The state's affordable housing coalition is even opposing:

These have come up, I think, out of frustration from citizens that the city has not moved on a lot of these policies, which are popular (Portland is a very liberal city), and the idea that it's because business or developers always quash efforts. The counterpoint is that affordable housing legislation is too complex to be a yes-or-no ballot referendum, and that if you're unhappy with what city council is doing, you can elect new councilors. My more general view (and I don't live in Portland) is a weariness that citizen frustration with politics begets ballot referendums on issues that have more nuance than a referendum can provide (cough, Brexit), and that's not great for government in general.


Bounty Hunter
To Library Cat- You probably would have been correct in your previous life of slate blackboards and chalk and old manuscripts and bowties, but the English language is different now:
Some believe that the plural form is referenda, following the Latin rules of pluralization. This is incorrect. Referendum is now considered an English word and follows the English rules of pluralization, simply adding an s to form the plural as in referendums.
Source: https://grammarist.com/plurals/referendum/

This is a situation where there isn’t a precise correspondence between Latin and English grammatical forms so it seems to me that we should just treat referendum as an English noun and give it the corresponding English plural. So “referendums” it is.
Source: https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/on-the-plural-of-referendum/


Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
If need be.

A referendum was on the ballot in Ann Arbor, MI this past election and was passed. Not only was it policy, it was funding mandate too.

They desperately need it was effective 'affordable' in that City has been pushed up to households making 100K per year since the market has heated tremendously and supply has lagged horribly.
A referendum was on the ballot in Ann Arbor, MI this past election and was passed. Not only was it policy, it was funding mandate too.

They desperately need it was effective 'affordable' in that City has been pushed up to households making 100K per year since the market has heated tremendously and supply has lagged horribly.
(Just so everyone's on the same page)
Newspaper headlines often abbreviated ^this^ to "Prop C" and it was often referred as a "millage".
A copy/paste of this Proposal, which nearly 75% of the voters on November 3rd approved:
Ann Arbor City Proposal C
Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a new tax up to 1.000 mills for construction, maintenance, and acquisition of new affordable housing units for low-income individuals and families making less than 60% Ann Arbor Area Median Income, and for providing social services for the residents of such housing for 2021 through 2041, which will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $6,550,505. In accordance with State law, a portion of the millage may be subject to capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

One of the large number of op-ed pieces
supporting Prop C before the election:
Yes on Prop C for a better Ann Arbor

A different viewpoint-
Some people from economically-challenged cities & townships in Washtenaw County believe that Prop C may do little to avert the overall affordable housing crisis:
10/17/2020> "Getting Real About Race" event challenges Washtenaw County to identify and address racial disparity
For this thread's topic, please scroll way down to the header: "Exposing disparities in housing"
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