Stephen Russell is executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Affordable housing advocates are plotting a property tax hike to pay for thousands of new housing units in November 2018 – and they think it’s got legs.

A San Diego Housing Federation-funded poll found more than 70 percent of likely city voters would back a $900 million bond next November to bankroll an estimated 7,500 housing units, according to numbers shared with Voice of San Diego.

The affordable housing lobbying group this month poll-tested a property tax increase that would cost $19 per $100,000 of assessed home value annually. That pitch garnered 71 percent support; the effort would need a two-thirds majority to pass.

Polling firm EMC Research surveyed 600 likely voters in the city between Nov. 1 and Nov. 6 and estimated a margin of error of about 4 percent.

The Housing Federation push is one of a handful of conversations about securing more funding for housing units and homeless services on the 2018 ballot.

On Tuesday, City Councilman David Alvarez proposed a 2018 ballot measure to commit increased hotel-tax revenue growth to homeless housing and services for the next 20 years.

A group of power brokers has also held private talks to discuss potentially reworking Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s previously failed effort to place a measure on the ballot that would fund a Convention Center expansion and homeless services with a hotel-tax hike.

Build Better San Diego, a coalition of labor and community organizing groups, has also been discussing a ballot initiative to pay for homes for low-income residents.

And those are just the local measures.

Stephen Russell, executive director of the Housing Federation, has in recent months met with local politicians and housing advocates to pool support for a November 2018 measure. He said his group plans to pursue the tax measure via a City Council process to allow public debate.

For now, Russell said, the Housing Federation envisions a ballot proposal that would produce 2,500 permanent supportive housing units for homeless San Diegans — homes that come with mental health and other services for people living in them — as well as thousands more for low-income families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

Russell said he’s confident that the measure could prevail next November despite the growing list of potential ballot measures for 2018.

“Housing is at the forefront of people’s minds,” he said.

Russell also believes Alvarez’s proposal, in particular, could be complementary. If both pass, Russell said it could provide cash needed to pay for services for the supportive housing units. He estimated those units will need at least $24 million a year to support the services tied to them.

Joel Roberts, CEO of PATH, which operates a permanent and interim housing facility downtown, has already come out in support.

“Like many cities in California, San Diego is confronting a growing homelessness issue,” Roberts said in a statement released by the Housing Federation. “We all know that permanent housing is the solution. A housing bond to fund such housing is the most effective way to help get our homeless neighbors off the streets.”

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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