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California will not vote on public housing amendment to state constitution this fall

Voters in the state of California will not be voting on an amendment to their state constitution this fall that would’ve removed a controversial public housing provision from the governing document, according to lawmakers who spoke with Politico.

Article 34, a provision in the California Constitution, requires local voters to approve any new government-subsidized rental housing for low-income individuals. Opponents have said the provision, adopted in the 1950s, has promoted racial segregation in the state’s public housing system. Prior efforts to repeal it have failed and a new measure was slated to be on the ballot in November.

But two of the leading lawmakers behind the initiative — Democratic Sens. Ben Allen and Scott Wiener — have reversed course. While they had hoped to get the measure on the ballot and for voters to approve the removal of the provision from the constitution, Allen explained that the timing is simply not right for adding another statewide initiative to a ballot that already has 12 of them set to move forward.

Allen also explained that there is other positive momentum on public housing issues, particularly Senate Bill 469, which would add exceptions to allow for more public housing projects without requiring prior voter approval.

That measure “substantially addresses some of the most significant concerns about how Article 34 might be impacting housing production,” Allen told Politico.

Article 34 has been a consistent thorn in the side of those seeking to construct more public housing throughout the state, despite certain local and state efforts that have been fashioned to sidestep it. Cities have had to contend with impediments it has reportedly created against taking additional action.

“The city of Millbrae, south of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court late last year seeking to block the county from buying a La Quinta Inn and Suites and converting it into housing for homeless families and seniors,” Politico reported. “Millbrae officials argue the project is illegal because voters haven’t approved it.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom became involved. He took city officials to task over the lawsuit that has stalled progress in the area for one of his office’s key housing programs, Homekey, which is designed to convert more hotels and motels into housing for homeless people.

While this amendment is the first of the approved initiatives to be removed from the California fall ballot, the impending deadline of June 27 likely means “it will not be the last,” Politico stated.

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