Measure T - Funding for Homelessness & Code Enforcement

On November 6, voters in Richmond will have the option to vote on Measure T, a ballot initiative that would create a Special Parcel Tax on Vacant Properties to fund homelessness services and housing, blight and dumping elimination, and specified programs.

The tax would have a rate of up to $3,000 annually per vacant developed parcel and up to $6,000 annually per vacant undeveloped parcel, raising about $5.1 million annually.

The Richmond Housing Advisory Commission would help direct the proper use of funds and publish an annual report on the use and impact of the special tax revenue.

Example of a vacant undeveloped property

lot 1

Demolition of a vacant structure by Code Enforcement

House demolition

Key Documents:

To view all official election documents for Measure T please visit the City Clerk's website.


Contact the Mayor's Office at 510-620-6548 or email 

Use of Revenue:

All the revenue generated by Measure T would be restricted to funding:

(1) Homelessness Programs - approximately 60%
(2) Code Enforcement - minimum of 25%
(3) Administration and Implementation - maximum of 15%
Abandoned House

Programs and Services Funded:

  • Job training, apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, drug treatment, and job readiness assistance programs for homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless
  • Assistance connecting homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless with available services and resources, including assistance applying for housing or public benefit programs
  • Housing assistance, including the provision of temporary housing or move-in expenses, such as first-month's rent and a security deposit, and emergency rental assistance
  • Sanitation, bathroom, and cleaning services related to homeless encampments, and programs to supplement remedying and deterring blight and illegal dumping throughout the City
  • Incentive programs to encourage property owners to make space available for low income housing, including making funds available for physical improvements to enable a unit to be used for a voucher-based housing program.
  • Relocation assistance funding for low-income households facing displacement
  • Financial assistance for the design, development, construction or operation of affordable housing units.
  • Accessibility support to provide or maintain housing, and make needed improvements for accessibility, for seniors and persons with disabilities
  • Navigation centers to provide space for people to stay, along with on-site support services for the homeless. Funding may be used for both capital and operating costs related to navigation centers
  • Code enforcement and cleanup of blighted vacant properties, other blight elimination, and remedying illegal dumping, including legal action to address any of the foregoing as necessary

Info and Health Services Fair

Senior Information Day

Grand opening of Reentry Success Center

Reentry Success Center

Thanksgiving Day Banquet

Thanksgiving banquet

Potential Tax Revenue (official staff estimates)

Property Type Total Parcels Annual Tax Rate Revenue
Vacant Parcel 810 undeveloped up to $6,000 $4,860,000
Vacant Building 83 developed up to $3,000 $249,000
TOTAL: 893 parcels - $5,109,000

Definition of Vacant Parcels/Structures

The proposed parcel tax on vacant property would apply to most vacant property throughout the city, including undeveloped private property, vacant commercial and industrial buildings, and vacant residential units. A property would be classified as vacant if it is in use less than 50 days during a calendar year. The property need not have a building or structure on it to be "in active use." For example, this proposed tax would not apply to properties that are used as gardens, or to host farmers' markets. The Measure would create an administrative process through which the owner of vacant property could apply for waiver to be exempted from the tax.

Please refer to the Measure T ordinance, Section 13.58.020 - Determination of Vacancy, for a full definition. Click Here to view the document.

What is Measure T Addressing?

Homelessness and blight, including dumping, vegetation overgrowth, and unoccupied buildings, are two pervasive and enduring issues in Richmond, both underfunded and under-addressed.

According to the Point in Time count of January 2018, there were 270 unsheltered individuals in Richmond, living in encampments under overpasses, in vacant lots, and along freeways, railroad rights-of-way, and creeks. Contra Costa County's Health Services CORE team logged 721 unique contact points with homeless individuals between January 2017 and April 2018 .

Unregulated and unserviced encampments come with significant problems for the occupants and the surrounding communities. Encampments are inadequate and unsafe for their unsheltered residents and can have negative impacts on community health and safety. Areas surrounding unmanaged encampments can experience increases in blight and criminal activities including drug abuse and petty theft. They also foster an image that the neighborhood is declining, which can affect property values and community pride.

Encampments are political flashpoints with a lack of clear solutions. Some neighbors and community members want them to go away. Others argue that compassion should prevail, and the City should provide services within managed encampments while allowing them to stay put. While neither position is wrong, it is imperative that the City actively seek creative and effective solutions to improve community health and safety by serving all residents of our city, sheltered or not.

Currently, there is no source of funding in Richmond to move homeless persons into housing, assuming it is even available. The average rent for a studio apartment in Richmond is $1,400 a month, or $16,800 per year. If we were to provide enough units to house those counted as unsheltered and those staying in emergency shelter beds in Richmond, we would need to provide housing to nearly 581 individuals. Currently, there are not enough available units, and the cost of providing rental assistance to each individual could cost up to $9.76 million per year.

Vacant properties are also a problem, negatively impacting the community by attracting crime, blight and illegal dumping. Properties that remain vacant undermine the safety and vitality of our neighborhoods, and take up space that could be used for housing and businesses, creating jobs and providing tax revenue.

Taxing the “unearned increment” is coming back in vogue among municipal policy makers and scholars of urban studies. If real property consists of both structures and land, and if the value of land is determined by locational amenities produced by a community and improvements to other properties in the same area, then a property owner who leaves his fully served urban land vacant derives a profit unrelated to his investment. Taxing this “unearned increment” would encourage owners of vacant land to develop their properties, or sell their parcels to those who would, thus increasing housing-stock, business activity and jobs while driving down rents.

In addition to creating a dedicated funding source, by taxing vacant properties, this measure will help encourage people to put those properties back into use, thus, increasing the housing supply. Properties that are left vacant for extended periods of time can attract crime and cause blight, harming the surrounding neighborhood. Taxing vacant properties, therefore, is helpful on both ends of this problem. The tax itself will incentivize productive use of vacant properties, and the tax revenue will be used to address the homelessness crisis and sources of poverty as well as blight.

Possible Exemptions

  1. An Owner who qualifies as very low-income, as the term "very low income" is defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
  2. An Owner who can demonstrate that exceptional specific circumstances prevent the use or development of the property. By way of example only and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, exceptional specific circumstances that prevent the use or development of property include property damage by a recent natural disaster, an undeveloped parcel adjoining a developed residential parcel and used by the occupants as part of the yard, and property with physical conditions that prevent development. The details of this exemption shall be further defined by separate ordinance of the City Council
  3. An Owner of a property that is under active construction. To qualify for this exemption, an Owner must call for inspections of the construction with sufficient frequency to keep the building permit or permits active
  4. An Owner of property for which an active building permit application is being processed by the City
  5. An Owner of a parcel included in a substantially complete application for planning approvals that has not yet received approval. An Owner of a parcel for which a project with development entitlements have been approved but needing time for completion may apply for and receive an administrative two-year exemption
  6. An Owner of property for which at least 60 percent of the accessible dry land is actively used for Community Garden(s), Outdoor Agriculture, or Urban Agriculture