The city of Vancouver is on the cusp of approving $100 million in affordable housing and housing assistance over the next decade.
The first batch of ballots for Tuesday night’s special election showed that city voters are saying yes to the 10-year levy. They supported it by roughly 52% to 48%, but numbers could change in the coming days.
Its main backers felt optimistic. Alishia Topper, the Clark County treasurer and one of the leaders of a political action committee supporting the levy, said she and others felt the levy “was in a very good position.”
“The funds from this levy are going to ensure that there are housing options available for people at very low incomes,” Topper said, “which will help people from slipping into homelessness.”
Election officials counted 23,500 ballots in the first batch, preliminary results show, less than half of the expected total. County data shows they received 49,000 ballots up until Election Day. More ballots will trickle in by mail.
Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle struck a more reserved tone as she viewed the results. She said she would feel better with more ballots counted and with the ‘yes’ votes leading by a wider margin.
“It would be a huge disappointment,” McEnerny-Ogle said of the prospect of the levy failing.
The levy, officially called Proposition 3, will tax about 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value starting in 2024. That pencils out to about $135 a year for a $450,000 home.
If passed, according to city officials, the levy will help 2,500 households pay rent and build or help maintain 2,400 more affordable housing units over the decade. The city has also stated some of the money will help with down payment assistance and support with shelter space.
The levy would be the successor to an existing one. In 2016, voters approved a six-year, $42 million levy that sunsets at the end of the year. The city has spent about $35.8 million so far, which has helped build 1,061 affordable units and 450 shelter beds.
That’s a strong track record in Topper’s view. And McEnerny-Ogle said the levy’s advantage, though slight, showed voters agreed.
“I think the community has trusted us with the way we’ve stewarded their funds with the last seven years,” the mayor said.
The levy’s main goal is to help people who are struggling to say housed, or who are already without a house. The latest data in Clark County counted about 1,197 unhoused residents, a 30% increase from 2020.