Housing Initiatives Won Big Across the Country on Tuesday

The trend could be a harbinger of more ballot choices in 2022, as more cities and states take aim at rising rents.,

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Ballot initiatives to increase housing won big on Tuesday, a possible harbinger for 2022.

In Leadville, Co., voters approved a new 3 percent tax on visitors staying in hotels, motels and short-term rentals.Credit…Rachel Woolf for The New York Times

Nov. 3, 2021, 1:33 p.m. ET

A slew of initiatives aimed at the addressing the nation’s housing crisis passed on Tuesday, a test run for ballot choices in 2022 as more cities and states take aim at rising rents, a continued explosion in short-term rentals and the depressed housing stock nationwide.

The epicenter of the action was in the West, particularly in Colorado, where housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years, with short-term rentals helping lead the way. In Leadville, a scenic former silver mining town, voters overwhelmingly approved a new 3 percent tax on visitors staying in hotels, motels and short-term rentals, which will be used to create more affordable housing.

Measures to increase fees on short-term rentals passed in Telluride, Avon and Ouray; Vail approved a sales tax increase for housing.

“If folks want to play in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, then individuals must also be able to live and work in those same towns,” said Corrine Rivera Fowler, the director of policy and legal advocacy at the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

Other cities and counties around the country passed similar initiatives. In coastal Lincoln County, Ore., where tourism is a major economic driver, the sole item on the ballot was a measure that would require the phasing out of short-term rental homes in unincorporated residential areas — and it prevailed in spite of a large spending campaign by opposing groups. Houses used for short-term rentals have pushed up rents n tourist towns, making them unaffordable for workers. In some cities, houses targeting short-term rentals have been built faster than cheaper units for lower-income residents.

In both Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., residents approved rent-control measures, and in Boston, Michelle Wu won the mayor’s race after calling for a form of rent control.

Other cities approved funding measures such as bond issues or dedicated tax revenue for housing. In Albuquerque, voters approved new bonds that would finance the construction and rehabilitation of low- and moderate-income housing.

Experts expect more of the same in the next election cycles.

“As housing availability decreases and housing costs increase in cities, especially big cities across many states, voters will continue to see more housing-related measures on the ballot,” said Josh Altic, the ballot measures project director at Ballotpedia.

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