San Francisco Affordable Housing Looks Worse Using the New Math

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In response to concerns about the lack of affordable housing, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors required the Planning Department to monitor the problem and publish the Housing Balance Report biannually. Chief among its eight stated purposes is: “Maintain a balance between new affordable and market rate housing Citywide and within neighborhoods.”

The department’s first report explained why that’s not happening.

San Francisco has lost nearly as many affordable housing units as it has built since 2005. They established 6,559 units while developers took 5,470 off the market. That translates into about 100 net new units citywide per year.

If that’s a bone being thrown to affordable housing advocates, it’s mighty spindly.

San Francisco voters approved a number of affordable housing goals when they passed Proposition K last November. The city expects to build or rehab 30,000 homes by 2020, and half of them should be affordable for middle-class households. Low- and moderate-income households should have a shot at living in at least 33%.

The proposition also pledged the city to attempt to ensure that a third of new housing in areas rezoned for more residential development are affordable to low- and moderate-income households. Prop. K passed with 65.6% of the vote.

The city is in talks to purchase a lot in the Mission District for $18.5 million and Mayor Ed Lee asked the supervisors to approve building a seven-story structure with 72 permanently affordable units large enough for families. The owners picked up the property in 2009, after the housing crash, for $2.65 million.

The city claimed victory over the report’s construction record. “We are doing quite well in terms of the production of new housing in the city,” Planning Department Director John Rahaim told the San Francisco Examiner, but he acknowledged, “What is causing the overall balance number to be lower is the loss of rent-controlled units.”

Those lost units brought the cumulative housing balance score to 20.8%, which seemed surprising to some, but not to others.

“People in the affordable housing movement across the country have been saying for a long time preservation is important,” Don Falk, chief executive officer of the nonprofit developer Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp., told the newspaper. “This just amplifies the importance of that point.”

Now they know.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

City Snapping Up Site for Affordable Housing in the Mission (by J.K. Dineen and Emily Green, San Francisco Chronicle)

Mayor Proposes Below Average Cost Rental Development (by Keith Burbank, Bay City News)

First-Ever Housing Balance Report Shows SF Needs to Better Preserve Below-Market-Rate Homes (by Laura Dudnick, San Francisco Examiner)

S.F. Loses Affordable Housing Almost as Quickly as It Builds It (by Cory Weinberg, San Francisco Business Times)

2,595 Apply for 18 Affordable Housing Units in San Francisco (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Housing Balance Report (San Francisco Planning Department)

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