Effort by lawmakers to nix racist law on affordable housing may cost $20M

Running a successful voter referendum could be a costly endeavour

Senator Scott Wiener (Getty, iStock)
Senator Scott Wiener (Getty, iStock)

An effort by California lawmakers to purge from the state’s constitution a racist law that allows voters to essentially veto public housing projects, the only one of its kind in the nation, will cost at least $20 million.

“It’s not the type of ballot measure that automatically draws in money,” state Senator Scott Wiener, who backs a repeal, told the Associated Press. “The polling is not rock solid. It’s a winnable campaign. We can win. But it will require strong funding.”

The last attempt to repeal the law, in 1993, failed when it garnered the support of just 40 percent of voters.

Repealing state laws can be costly, partly because of California’s pricey media market.
Backers of an effort to allow public universities to consider race in admissions collected $22 million, riding the momentum of George Floyd’s murder. Yet opponents spent just $1.7 million, and 57 percent of voters opposed it.

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Codified into the constitution in 1950, the affordable housing law was intended to keep Black families from living in white neighborhoods. Today, the law stands in the way of creating more affordable housing. Lawmakers have until June 30 to determine whether they’ll get it on this year’s ballot.

Bay area cities have had to find ways around the law. San Francisco voters in 2020 approved Proposition K, which allows the city to own and manage up to 10,000 low-income rental housing units. South San Francisco plans to ask voters in November to allow the city to develop, build or acquire 1 percent of the units in the city year over year for the next 30 years.

[AP] — Gabriel Poblete

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