Thumbs up: Yes on Measure S: Affordable housing in Healdsburg

Cities throughout the state are struggling to provide housing for middle- and low-income residents. Healdsburg is no exception. Housing is the dominant issue in this year’s election, with all six City Council candidates focused on the topic and a controversial ballot measure to relax the town’s growth management ordinance.

Whoever is elected, and whatever the fate of the growth ordinance, Healdsburg needs more housing options for citizens of ordinary means - teachers, tradesmen, merchants, employees of the town’s phenomenally successful restaurants, hotels and other tourism-related businesses.

Affordable housing almost always requires a public investment, and Measure S on the Nov. 8 ballot would provide about $500,000 a year earmarked for that purpose.

Measure S would increase the room tax paid by guests in local hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns from 10 percent to 12 percent. Because the revenue is dedicated to a specific purpose - promoting affordable housing - Measure S is considered a special tax, and it requires a two-thirds majority for approval. We think voters should say yes.

Although it has become Sonoma County’s priciest real estate market, Healdsburg has a track record of facilitating affordable housing through its short-term rental assistance program, funding for rehabilitation projects and development of income-restricted apartment complexes by Eden Housing and Burbank Housing.

However, the city lost its primary source of funds for affordable housing subsidies when the state eliminated the redevelopment program in 2011. Redevelopment produced about $1.8 million a year for housing in Healdsburg.

Measure S would replace less than a third of that money, but it would allow the city to invest in badly needed workforce housing. And it would do so by tapping into Healdsburg’s tourism industry, which is a source of economic vitality for the city - but also a major factor in the growing shortage of affordable housing. The Press Democrat recommends a yes vote on Measure S.

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