North America

San Francisco voters back 'homeless tax' on wealthy firms

The tax will rake in US$250 to US$300 million per year. Source: AAP

The tax is being called "Robin Hood-esque".

San Francisco voters backed a tax on the city's wealthiest companies to tackle homelessness, passing a measure that divided the tech community.

A tally posted Wednesday showed that 60 per cent of voters in the city home to Airbnb, Uber, Salesforce, and Twitter cast ballots in favor of "Proposition C," a local ballot measure brought about by a 28,000 signature petition this summer.

Designed to rake in $250 to $300 million per year, the "Robin Hood-esque" measure will tax corporations making more than $50 million to fund housing for 5,000 people and finance mental health and housing aid services, according to its backers.

A number of San Francisco's tech bosses - including Twitter chief Jack Dorsey and Patrick Collison of payment startup Stripe - resisted the proposal.

But billionaire Marc Benioff, head of cloud computing firm Salesforce, pumped millions of dollars into the "Yes On C" campaign.

Benioff was quoted prior to the election as lamenting that a lot of billionaires in the thriving San Francisco area on the edge of Silicon Valley are "just hoarding" their wealth.

"Prop C's victory means the homeless will have a home and the help they truly need!" Benioff tweeted.

"Let the city come together in love for those who need it most!"

Dorsey, who sparred with Benioff over the issue on Twitter, called for "long term solutions" - "not quick acts to make us feel good for one moment in time."

According to the city council, which opposed the measure, some 7,500 people sleep outside every night in San Francisco.

Local services see some 20,000 different homeless people each year - and the city says it is spending $250 million per year on fighting the housing crisis.

Many in San Francisco's homeless population suffer from mental and physical illnesses, and live among garbage and drug paraphernalia.

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