Voters approved more money for affordable housing around the country
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Gas prices got a lot of attention from candidates these midterm elections, but rents and home prices that skyrocketed during the pandemic are a far bigger chunk of people's budgets — and those increases are fueled by a historic housing shortage. Voters in dozens of cities were asked to approve more spending for affordable housing, and in some places they did so overwhelmingly.
Kansas City will aim to fund "deeply affordable" housing, as KCUR has explained, with rents as low as $550 to $750 per month.
"There is not a county in this country where a worker earning a minimum wage and working full time can afford a two-bedroom apartment," says Tara Raghuveer, an advocate with People's Action and KC Tenants. "This is no longer a city issue, but it's one that's expanding out to the suburbs and even rural communities."
Austin's largest-ever housing bond measure also passed handily, just four years after another one that's already been spent. KUT explains that it will help the city repair existing affordable housing, build new homes and buy land for new home construction.
In Florida's Palm Beach County, unofficial results showed voters approving $200 million in additional property taxes to encourage developers to build moderately priced homes. The measure's sponsor, Commissioner Mack Bernard, told WLRN that "our county workers, police officers, firefighters and teachers cannot afford to live here."
Votes were still being counted on a so-called mansion tax in Los Angeles, which would impose a 4% or higher tax on property sales of more than $5 million.
City officials say it could raise $600 million to $1.1 billion a year, according to LAist.com, to pay for tens of thousands of new affordable housing units and help people avoid homelessness. Opponents warned it could drive up rents and deter developers, and neither candidate for mayor supported it.
A sweeping statewide Colorado measure appeared close to passing on Wednesday. Proposition 123 would dedicate about 2 percent of income tax revenues for affordable housing — about six times more than is currently being spent according to CPR. It calls on cities to fast-track construction and set rents at less than 30% of household income. But while it would not raise taxes, it would cut into a popular program that refunds residents when the state brings in a lot of money.
President Biden has proposed a massive investment in housing but it did not survive in Congress. His administration has pushed cities to build more housing, and faster, but the shortage is so deep that experts say it will take years to fill.
Higher mortgage rates are starting to curb housing prices. But last week, the National Association of Realtors said the share of first-time homebuyers has fallen to a historic low. NAR analyst Jessica Lautz says those people able to buy are older, more likely to be white, and that many are getting help with a down payment.
"Either using the bank of mom and dad, or they're moving into their parents' home or family member's home before purchasing," Lautz says. "Or perhaps even cashing out stocks, bonds or retirement savings."
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
No matter how much money is spent on polls, Americans still deliver a few surprises at election time.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Republicans are likely to gain in the midterm elections, as the party out of power usually does, but they're gaining far less than expected. With many races undecided, Republicans have yet to capture the House.
MARTIN: Democrats are, at this moment, up one seat in the Senate. That one seat goes to John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Races in Arizona and Georgia are as of yet undecided, and the same is true in Nevada.
INSKEEP: Our colleague A Martínez is in Las Vegas. Hey there, A.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Hi, Steve. Yeah, there's still a lot we don't know about the state of the race, as paper ballots are still being counted here. And as of now, Republican Adam Laxalt has a narrow lead over Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. Three out of four House races in Nevada appear to favor Democrats, and the outcome could be heavily swayed by working-class and Latino voters in Clark County. That's home to the Las Vegas Strip, where thousands of workers were laid off during the pandemic, and many are still without a job. NPR's Deepa Shivaram is here with me in chilly, windy Las Vegas. Deepa, so first, get us up to speed on the latest results of Nevada. What's still unknown?
DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning. A lot is still unknown, A. Vote counting is still going on, and officials here have been saying that that was going to be the case for weeks now. This is the first midterm election where Nevada has had this volume of mail ballots. The first time was 2020, and basically, everyone got a mail ballot sent to them. Voters here could mail them in or drop them off in person yesterday on Election Day. And counting those ballots is going to take days. Right now candidates are saying that it might take the whole week. Governor Steve Sisolak, who is in a tight reelection race against Republican Joe Lombardo, told supporters last night to be patient.
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STEVE SISOLAK: They said it was going to be close, and it is. We ask you to please, please be patient. We need to make sure that every single vote is counted because we need every single vote.
SHIVARAM: But I want to emphasize here that this timeline on how long the vote count will take was expected. And these races in Nevada for Senate, for governor or secretary of state, some of these House races, like you mentioned, they're all going to be extremely close. And one thing you'll hear out of Nevada in the next few days, in addition to counting the mail ballots, is something called ballot curing, and that's when there could be an irregularity or a missing signature on someone's mail-in ballot, and the election offices here give those people a chance to fix it so their vote can be counted. And since there's so much mail-in voting this year and the races are so tight, we'll be keeping an eye out for that process as well.
MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, you've been speaking to voters here. What have they told you about their priorities?
SHIVARAM: You know, the interesting thing yesterday is that I heard just about everything from voters in line yesterday - health care costs, gun violence, abortion rights, of course. I even met one Republican voter who told me he voted for all Democrats this year for the first time because he's worried about a peaceful transfer of power. But above all, as we know, economy and inflation, high gas prices here, are something that we've been hearing all over the country and especially here in Clark County. The pandemic absolutely wrecked Las Vegas, which really heavily relies on tourism. And that feeling is still really present as people are still recovering. I was driving around Clark County just the past couple of days, and I've seen maybe one gas station where the price of gas was less than $5 a gallon.
SHIVARAM: And so many people I spoke with yesterday who are Republican and voting Republican said they just need things to change. And this also goes for independent voters, A, which we know, based on what we've seen, are kind of trending more red this year. They see Democrats in charge in Nevada holding on to both of these Senate seats, the governor's seat, these House races, and they just want something to change. They said something have to be - something has to be different. And Republican operatives I spoke with in the state said that they're hammering home that message, basically saying, you know, that voters are having to choose between gas or groceries because that's what they know is very top of mind here.
MARTÍNEZ: Now, Nevada has become more ethnically diverse in recent years. What are you hearing about how Democrats and Republicans - how they've tried to court voters of color?
SHIVARAM: Yeah. Latino and Asian voters are hugely powerful in this state. And there's been a lot of recent polling that shows that Republicans are making an impression with Latino voters around the country, and that's true here as well. On the other side, organizations like the Culinary Union, a really big union here in Las Vegas in particular, have been really critical for get-out-the-vote efforts, particularly for Democrats in the past. They say that they've knocked on a million doors this year, which is a record for them. But we're still watching, with these numbers coming in and these ballots being counted, to see how Latino voters showed up in this election.
And then also, with Asian American and Pacific Islander voters, a very booming population here in Nevada, and there's a lot of interest in voting in that community and wanting to get engaged but, historically, not as much outreach from either party. I talked with Eric Jeng, who runs an organization called One APIA Nevada, about this on Monday.
ERIC JENG: Some political consultant called them split-ticket voters. But just, for me, when I talk to them, is they're not party loyalists because the party hasn't shown which party that deserved the community's loyalty.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Deepa Shivaram in Las Vegas with me here. Thanks, Deepa, a lot.
SHIVARAM: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.