Lee, Farrell seek flexible affordable housing rules

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Mark Farrell Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would give developers more flexibility in satisfying city laws requiring the inclusion of affordable housing.

The proposed changes to the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance are intended to speed up production of affordable housing, according to Lee, who last week announced a plan to build or rehabilitate 10,000 units for low and middle-income residents by 2020.

The draft ordinance would allow developers to “dial” up the price and targeted income level of affordable units, on or off-site, in return for an increase in the number of units.

Rental units could go from 55 percent of the Area Median Income to 70 or 90 percent, in return for a larger percentage of affordable units, while ownership units could go from 90 percent to 120 percent of the area median income in return for more units.

Developers can currently develop affordable units on or off site or pay a fee toward inclusionary housing. The proposed changes would also allow developers to put inclusionary housing fees toward the acquisition of rental buildings in the neighborhood project.

The proposal would also give developers more flexibility in areas including the location of affordable units, the time required to complete them and pricing.

Lee said in a statement Tuesday:

“The proposed amendments to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance resulted from recommendations from my Housing Working Group last year and will incentivize and speed up the production of affordable homes in our City’s growing neighborhoods.”

“These are commonsense reforms,” Farrell said Tuesday in introducing the legislation to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Scott Wiener Tuesday also introduced an ordinance that would streamline the approval process for all 100 percent affordable housing projects by exempting them from conditional use authorization and rezoning requirements.

Conditional use authorization, a lengthy process that requires a public hearing before the Planning Commission, is required for projects that need special exemptions from zoning controls for issues such as the allowable number of units, unit size or ground floor uses.

The legislation would also remove any requirement for rezoning for 100 percent affordable housing projects built on public land other than parks and open space, according to Wiener.

Neighbors would still get notices of projects in their neighborhood and have the option of appealing a project to the Planning Commission, Wiener said.

Wiener said Tuesday in introducing the legislation:

“We have seen projects that have been delayed through the conditional use process. … We need more affordable housing and it takes way too long to get affordable housing built in this city.”

Wiener cited the Booker T Washington project at 800 Presidio Ave., which provides housing for emancipated youth, as a recent example of an affordable housing project that was tied up by delays.

Pat Scott, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center, Tuesday issued a statement in support of Wiener’s legislation:

“Projects for vulnerable populations, like the Booker T. Washington Community Center, often suffer unconscionable bureaucratic delays, which only serve to keep needed affordable housing units from being built and divert financial and human resources away from needed services. … This legislation will help streamline the approval process for affordable housing and I strongly support it.”