Initiatives aim to build more affordable housing

Creating more affordable housing, stopping The City’s gentrification process and supporting San Francisco’s working class are the goals of two competing November ballot measures introduced this week.

The Housing Balance Act, supported by five city supervisors, would mandate a minimum 30-percent affordable housing ratio, while the Mayors 7-point Housing Plan aims to build 30,000 new units with half earmarked as affordable housing.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim told SFBay most San Francisco residents, even those making $120,000 a year, find it difficult to afford to live in the City:

“If we say we are committed to keeping San Francisco affordable, the Housing Balance Act is a real commitment to our residents who are frustrated that supply isn’t making housing more affordable for them.”

The City’s general plan sets a goal for 61 percent of new housing to be available to low-income residents.

Because of the lack of consequences, however, the citywide ratio of affordable housing compared to market rate housing has been about 30 percent since 1994.

The Housing Balance Act would require the City to keep an updated running percentage of affordable housing citywide in order to maintain the minimum level of 30 percent.

If the City’s total number of housing project falls under that 30 percent floor then all projects with more than 10 units would be required to go through a Conditional Use process involving a public hearing by the Planning Commission.

They would consider such elements as the projects impact on the housing balance ratio, the likelihood of low-income being displaced and possible adverse impacts on the community.

Construction projects with less than 25 units, affordable housing projects and projects participating in the State’s 80/20 program would be exempt.

It’s supported by supervisors Kim, John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar and Norman Yee.

Yee told SFBay the bill would help working families stay in San Francisco:

“During this period of rapid growth, we have a real opportunity to hit the pause button on development and reflect on the type of City we want to build, especially for low to moderate income families struggling to stay​.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor London Breed have introduced a countermeasure designed to meet the goal of 30,000 new housing developments by 2020 with 50 percent marked as affordable housing.

Their proposal would require the City to create a strategy to ensure 50 percent of the new 30,000 units would indeed be earmarked as low cost housing and allocate additional money from the Housing Trust Fund. It would also seek to identify new sources of income to support affordable housing and ensure there were no barriers to build new housing.

The bill is supported by supervisor London Breed and Mark Farrell, Katy Tang and Scott Weiner.

Lee told SFBay his initiative would follow up on his January state-of-the-city address in which he pledged to respond to the city’s housing crisis:

“Achieving these goals will require our City to work together like never before, to build more new housing every year than at any time in our history, and devote more resources, public and private, towards new housing for middle and lower income families.”