San Francisco housing ‘crisis’ plan draws increased attention 

click to enlarge While a civil grand jury report suggests that Mayor Ed Lee's plan to create 30,000 housing units by 2020 won't impact housing costs, Lee says his plan will ensure The City's "economic diversity will be maintained.” - MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • mike koozmin/s.f. examiner file photo
  • While a civil grand jury report suggests that Mayor Ed Lee's plan to create 30,000 housing units by 2020 won't impact housing costs, Lee says his plan will ensure The City's "economic diversity will be maintained.”

San Francisco's soaring rents and increased evictions have reached nearly every corner of today's political discourse, including debates over legalizing short-term rentals and increasing compensation for those evicted.

Mayor Ed Lee's "cornerstone" response to what he has called a housing crisis is to build or rehabilitate 30,000 housing units by 2020. He most recently described the plan in response to a civil grand jury report this month, though the report suggests the effort won't impact housing costs.

"The Mayor's 30K plan is a goal that will provide some relief to the current shortage, but exactly how far it will go in addressing the affordability issue depends on many factors and the outlook tends to be gloomy," the report said.

The report suggests that perhaps the only real relief in city housing costs would be an economic downturn.

"The current affordability 'crisis' could also dissipate, at least temporarily, should technology employment turn out to be a bubble, as occurred in 2000 after the 'dot com' cycle when laid-off workers left San Francisco and vacancy rates increased," the report said.

But the mayor countered the report findings by arguing the "significant addition" of 30,000 units to an existing 376,000 housing units would ensure "San Francisco's economic diversity will be maintained."

"The Mayor's Office of Housing, Under Pressure and Challenged to Preserve Diversity" report will be discussed Thursday by the Board of Supervisors audits committee.

Among efforts to address The City's housing troubles is a ballot measure approved in 2012 that creates a $1.5 billion housing trust fund over the next 30 years. Additionally, The City has budgeted $50 million "to expedite and see new projects" during the next two years, and $2 million to rehabilitate vacant public housing units for homeless persons.

Of the targeted 30,000 units, the mayor said at least 10,000 of the homes will be within reach for low- or moderate-income people, those earning either up to 80 percent of the median income or up to 120 percent. For a family of four, that means earning $77,700 or $116,500 respectively.

Lee also said that "the majority will be within financial reach of working, middle income San Franciscans [up to 150 percent of median income, currently $145,650 for a family of four]."

The grand jury report also recommends improvements to increase the tracking and evaluation of affordable-housing development, such as quarterly reports for numbers of below-market-rate units constructed and those scheduled. The mayor said such a process is slated to occur.

The City is also in the process of improving how below-market-rate units are listed as well as the application process, which the report said is needed. Instead of having to visit development sites and fill out different applications, tenant hopefuls will soon be able to visit an online database listing all below-market-rate opportunities and fill out one uniform application.

"Leadership and results backed by data will allow the City to prepare itself politically and financially to nurture policies that can sustain a culturally and economically diverse population," the report said.

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