Lawmakers in California are working to repeal the nation’s only law that allows voters to veto public housing projects.

The provision was added to the state constitution in 1950 to keep Black families out of white neighborhoods, but the process comes with a price. 

Campaigns to change the California Constitution can cost $20 million or more. As reported by Adam Beam for the Associated Press, the latest attempt by legislators has run into some issues finding support because of the financial costs. 

Supporters attempted to repeal California’s affordable housing law in 1993 but failed with only 40 percent of voters in favor. According to Sen. Scott Wiener, supporters were prepared to put the proposal on the 2020 ballot, believing a presidential election year would increase the turnout of younger voters and give it a better chance of passing. 

The effort was abandoned due to insufficient funding for the campaign. 

The law which requires voters to approve publicly funded affordable housing projects came after a 1949 federal law that outlined segregation in public housing projects. After local housing authorities in two Northern California jurisdictions sought federal funds to build low-income housing, residents put an amendment to the constitution to require voter approval, which passed. 

California is the only state in this law, which only applies to public funding for affordable housing. 

“It's racist, classist," Wiener said. “I think it’s shocking to a lot of people that this is in our actual constitution.”
Lawmakers have to decide by June 30 whether to put it on the ballot this year or wait until 2024.

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