Bramson: When ballots open doors
San José Spotlight is looking for readers to talk about what they want to see in city government and their next leader. File photo.

    With the election season now crashing down upon us, it’s a good time to think about how your vote might open – or close – some doors for your fellow residents in the days ahead.

    Oddly, despite a housing crisis of epic proportions, a tsunami of anticipated evictions and hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from the cold each night, there’s very little to do specifically with truly affordable housing on the November ballot.

    In California, we have one real estate industry backed bill designed to transfer tax protections for senior homeowners (Proposition 19) and one rent control measure focused on allowing for broader local authority so cities have the option to extend more protections to tenants (Proposition 21). While I won’t debate the merits of either propositions here, I will tell you that neither really have anything to do with the hundreds of thousands of new homes we need to create in the next five years to keep people safe, stable and housed.

    With no real housing production legislation in play, we have to consider who we are putting in office. Without naming names, here are my burning questions when it comes to identifying new elected officials who might pass the test when it comes to making a real difference:

    • Is housing a top priority for them?
    • Do they have a plan for growth with affordability?
    • Are they willing to stand up for this issue?

    Making sure your candidate puts housing first, has a vision of how to build for the future and is committed to suffering the slings and arrows that it frequently takes to see the work through is of the utmost importance. Housing isn’t an easy issue and when it comes to the where, when and how at a local level. Your representatives might say nice things about wanting to ensure a home for all, but when tough gets going, all too often the perfect place for the next affordable development is somehow impossible to find.

    In cities like San Jose, we have to accept that with population growth, new jobs, and variety of market forces, the landscape will continue to change. The question is, what kind of community do we want it to be? A candidate who cares about our affordable future will make sure we are getting people off the streets, reducing the rent burden for our lowest wage earners and pushing for healthier and more inclusive community for us all.

    Make no mistake: on the other side, the national rhetoric of the existential threat of affordable housing to the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream” is not just mindless bluster. There are many people who believe that the housing inertia in our current system is somehow preserving our quality of life. Take a quick look around and you’ll see that by going nowhere, we’re actually sinking more and more every day. Our neighbors need a place to live and denying them a home that they can afford based on some outdated fiction from a century ago makes no sense for anyone anymore.

    So, please vote. It will take leaders with remarkable courage, vigor and resilience to get the job done, but the good news is some of those names are already on your ballot. It’s up to you to get them all the way home.

    San José Spotlight columnist Ray Bramson is the Chief Operating Officer at Destination: Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. His columns appear every second Monday of the month. Contact Ray at [email protected] or follow @rbramson on Twitter.

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