SF approves affordable housing development boost

San Francisco approved a change Tuesday to policy that will boost affordable housing among projects in the planning stages and even further for new construction.

The housing policy change comes as San Francisco continues to grapple with housing costs and increasing evictions, creating a challenging tension between developers and tenant advocates.

The Board of Supervisors approved the legislation Tuesday in a 9-2 vote. It would go into effect if voters in June approve Proposition C, a charter amendment that would allow the board to adjust inclusionary housing requirements rather than voters, who currently have that power.

“The market should be accountable to building more affordable and middle income housing and not just luxury housing,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who led the policy effort along with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell opposed the legislation. Both argued The City shouldn’t set requirements until economic feasibility analysis is conducted, which must happen by July 31 under the approved law.

“The legislation puts the cart before the horse,” said Wiener, while warning it may result in a “de-facto housing moratorium.” Similarly, Farrell said, “I don’t believe in arbitrary rates before feasibility studies are conducted.”
But Peskin noted that when the first inclusionary law went into effect 15 years ago at 12 percent there was no feasibility study and that the projects in the pipeline were treated “lightly.”

Per the policy approved Tuesday, projects have to add on top of the existing 12 percent an additional 1 percent if they filed in 2013, 1.5 percent if filed in 2014 and 2.5 if filed in 2015. The rate bumps are expected to generate about 200 additional below-market-rate units. New projects would have to hit 25 percent of the units at below-market-rate.

“This is a historic moment,” Peskin said. “We are doing a fine job of building $5 million condos that nobody can afford. But for the rest of us, we have got to bring that into balance.”

Supervisor Norman Yee called the proposal a compromise. “Pretty much everybody is saying I wish it could be better but it is a compromise,” Yee said. “It’s going to be way better than 12 percent,” he added.

Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission, said the proposal is a “step in the right direction” but noted “there are number of people in my district who want to have the number be higher.”

Despite Wiener’s concerns about requiring too much affordable housing that could reduce development, some who fought for a moratorium last year on the construction of market-rate housing in the Mission were unhappy the new inclusionary requirements didn’t go further.

“Apparently, the board learned nothing from last year’s takeover of City Hall, the Mission Moratorium or the groundswell that brought about Prop. I,” tenants rights attorney Scott Weaver, the author of Prop. I, wrote in an email. Prop. I proposed an unsuccessful temporary halt on market-rate development in the Mission, often considered ground zero for the housing crisis.

“On the one side we have big money – especially with the likes of Lennar – and on the other, a housing crisis that is especially affecting the Mission. Who wins?”

Also on Tuesday, Wiener introduced legislation with the support of Mayor Ed Lee that would prohibit city spending, such as travel, purchasing and contracting, in states that have passed laws being criticized for discriminating against the LGBT community.

Namely, North Carolina recently approved a law requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding with their birth certificate gender.

“By banning the use of taxpayer dollars in these states, we can set an example for other jurisdictions and build momentum to put an end to this nonsense,” Wiener said in a statement.