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Alameda County Measure W: Sales Tax To Tackle Homelessness

Sharon Hahn Darlin
Flickr Creative Commons
Homelessness in Oakland and other parts of Alameda County is at crisis point


This is a 2-minute summary of what’s on the ballot. Click here to listen to them all.  

Alameda County Measure W is 0.5% increase on sales tax for the next 10 years, to fund services for homeless people across Alameda County.

If passed by a simple majority, the county says the tax would generate around $150 million each year to fund housing, mental health support, and job training.

Why is it necessary? Well, at last count, there were over 8,000 homeless people in Alameda County. That’s up nearly 2,400 people in the last two years. Nearly 80 percent of them live on the street, in tents, or in vehicles. 

Measure W supporters say Alameda County’s homelessness crisis has been exacerbated by an affordable housing shortage and rent increases. And, recently, job losses and evictions related to COVID-19.

A coalition of policy experts and service providers working with Alameda County has come up with a plan to reduce its homeless population. They say Measure W is essential to help fund programs that will help shift seniors, veterans and others out of homelessness. 

Backers include the housing advocacy group the East Bay Housing Organizations and the 5,000 member United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County

The small Alameda County Taxpayers Association is the main opponent to this measure. It says the tax is a “blank check” that would allow money to go to the county’s general fund, and not necessarily homelessness programs. It argues that residents can’t afford a tax hike if facing unemployment or other impacts of COVID-19.

One more thing: while Measure W asks for a simple majority, county residents voted for a 0.5% sales tax back in March to subsidize preschool for low-income children. After it passed, opponents launched a legal challenge, arguing that the state constitution required a two-thirds majority. A judgment is pending, and that ruling could eventually impact Measure W as well. 

So, Alameda County residents: Vote yes on Measure W if you support a sales tax to help fund housing and other services for homeless people. Vote no if you’d rather not raise that tax for that purpose.