San Francisco voters will decide this November whether to spend $1.5 billion on affordable housing development and related programs during the next three decades.
As city officials say San Francisco has a housing crisis on its hands with skyrocketing rental and home prices forcing many to rethink living in The City, Mayor Ed Lee has come up with a Housing Trust Fund Charter Amendment.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 to place it on the ballot. Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Carmen Chu opposed it. Supervisor Mark Farrell was not in attendance due to a death in the family.
The fund will begin at $20 million and grow by $2.8 million annually until reaching $50.8 million. The measure also encourages private housing development by reducing government costs, including a 20 percent reduction in The City’s onsite affordable housing requirements.
“Creating a permanent source of revenue to fund the production of housing in San Francisco will ensure that San Francisco is a viable place to live and work for everyone, at every level of the economic spectrum,” Lee said in a statement.
But opponents said it was unwise to lock up funding for housing when The City faces other competing needs like public safety and education.
And Supervisor David Campos, who nonetheless supported the measure, said it was not aggressive enough to tackle the crisis.
“In terms of addressing the need that is out there I don’t think that this goes far enough,” Campos said, noting that the average rent in San Francisco is $2,734, 13 percent higher than it was last year. “I have heard people in my district who are having a tough time staying in neighborhoods like the Mission, Bernal Heights, Portola.”
But Supervisor Scott Wiener praised the measure for being a compromise and one that will “provide a very significant amount of funding for affordable housing. This is going to be a very sizeable investment.”
The fund will pay for such things as 9,000 units of affordable housing and interest-free loans for first-time, low-income homebuyers.
The funding would come from tax revenue that otherwise would have flowed into the now dissolved Redevelopment Agency, a portion of the Hotel Tax that has been appropriated annually for affordable housing, and an additional $13 million in new revenue from an increase in business license fees. The business fees are part of a separate proposed ballot measure that would replace The City’s business payroll tax with a gross receipts tax.