Colen: Four policies that succeed where the Mission moratorium fails 

As The City enters its third year of getting scorched by a brutal housing affordability crisis, it’s hard to imagine how conditions could get worse. But they actually might.

Supervisor David Campos’ proposed legislation that went before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday calls for a building moratorium in the Mission for any new housing that is not “100 percent affordable.” This would likely just throw gasoline on the fire.

The moratorium ignores the stark numbers confronting us. The City is currently growing by 10,000 new residents annually, and planners tell us The City will need to accommodate 1 million residents within 20 years. Where are these folks going to live? In the face of this explosive growth, a moratorium does nothing to address the huge demand placed on our limited housing, especially in the Mission.

All sides in the housing debate strongly agree we badly need more public funding to support housing affordability. But according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing, almost 40 percent of its revenue for the current budget year comes from market-rate building, or about $64 million.  

The Office of Housing is desperately underfunded and uses these fees to produce permanently affordable housing. Yet, Campos’ moratorium threatens the production of about 200 permanently affordable homes in the Mission. A moratorium would actually harm production of permanently affordable housing in the Mission.  

The proposed moratorium is a political distraction from doing things on which all sides already agree. Instead of waiting months to see the effects of a Mission moratorium, we could take action to create housing affordability today. Here are four things that could be done to create more affordable housing in the Mission: n Acquire land for subsidized housing. Mayor Ed Lee should executively authorize a Mission Action Fund to quickly acquire site control of potential infill properties in the Mission that could be developed for 100 percent affordable housing, particularly near the BART stations. It should offer gap financing for qualified projects that are not currently economically feasible.

n Sharply accelerate the planning and entitlement process for city-owned sites. There are four sites in the Mission that have already been identified for permanently affordable housing. These include: 1950 Mission St., 1270 Folsom St., 1296 Shotwell St. and 3001 24th St. Together, these properties could produce at least 250 permanently affordable homes.  

n Reform off-site inclusionary and eliminate the radius requirement. The off-site inclusionary option requires market-rate projects to build a second permanently affordable housing project that is at least 20 percent of the units of the original project. But the ordinance is rarely used because it has so many restrictions that impose huge economic risks. The ordinance should be reformed to create incentives for market-rate and nonprofit partnerships. In particular, it should allow secondary projects to be built farther than 1 mile from the principal project, opening up huge opportunities to build more affordable housing.

n Pass the housing bond this November! It’s the right thing to do and gets funding quickly to where it could make the biggest difference on housing affordability for folks who need it most.

Policies that are solution-oriented could create hundreds of affordable homes in the Mission far more quickly than simply freezing land use. Supervisor Campos’ housing moratorium by itself creates no housing. The Board of Supervisors should make a choice that actually improves housing affordability.

Tim Colen is the executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, a 16-year-old, member-supported nonprofit.

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