California prop measure to provide $2B for housing leading by a nose

If passed, part of $6.4B bond would funding 11K homes

California’s Prop. 1 Measure to Fund $2B For Housing Leading By a Fraction
Governor Gavin Newsom (Getty)

Governor Gavin Newsom’s Proposition 1, a mental health bond measure that would provide $2 billion to build housing that was presented to voters on the California ballot last week, is leading by a whisker.

The bond measure, which totals $6.38 billion, was leading by 50.3 percent on Sunday night, with 2.7 million votes, according to the California Secretary of State.

The final tally isn’t expected for days or weeks, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

Newsom had trumpeted the measure as a way to get “people off the streets, out of tents and into treatment.” 

Prop. 1 would direct $4.4 billion to fund 10,000 mental health beds and $2 billion for homeless housing projects, half of which would be reserved for veterans with mental illness or issues with drugs and alcohol.

The measure would also require the state’s 58 counties to spend 30 percent of Mental Health Services Act tax dollars on housing. Last year, the mental health revenue was $1 billion.

It would require the state’s counties to spend half of that money on the chronically homeless or people living in tents.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

The governor said the initiative would create 11,000 new homes through new housing construction or by converting hotels, motels and other buildings into homes.  

Over a 30-year span, the nearly $6.4 billion bond would cost $9.3 billion, including interest, according to a state Legislative Analyst Office analysis. 

California is now home to nearly a third of the nation’s homeless residents. The state’s homeless population grew 6 percent last year to more than 181,000 people, the largest estimate of any state.

The Yes on Prop 1 campaign raised nearly $21 million, and included backing by the National Alliance on Mental Illness California, California Teachers Association and California Chamber of Commerce.

In comparison, the “No on Prop. 1” campaign raised very little, and was led by mental health advocates such as Disability Rights California, who fear that changing funding priorities for the Mental Health Services Act will result in service cuts. They also fear new treatment beds will compel people into involuntary treatment.

Other opponents, such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, object to the high amount of government spending.

Barring a major shift in voting patterns in the ballots yet to count, it is likely — but not certain — the proposition will pass.

— Dana Bartholomew

Read more