New homes for needy are first of many in San Francisco 

Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials joined developers and homeless advocates Monday at a ceremony marking what Lee promised would be the first of many affordable-housing developments for the homeless and poor in The City.

The eight-story, 120-unit apartment building at Folsom and Essex streets, one of the first affordable-housing developments in the South of Market redevelopment area where the new Transbay Transit Center will be built, is expected to be completed in September 2013.

Once opened, it will provide studios and one-bedroom apartments for the homeless,  as well as counseling and supportive services.

“Ensuring affordable housing in this neighborhood is a top priority,” district Supervisor Jane Kim said.

Rich Gross of project investors Enterprise Community Partners noted the impediments to getting such a development done.

“Affordable housing is very difficult to do in California, and getting more difficult,” Gross said, citing tax and property management issues, among others.

The complex is named for Rene Cazenave, a longtime San Francisco affordable-housing advocate who died in 2010. Cazenave’s friend Calvin Welch credited Lee for trying to bring together the public and private sector to fill the gap left by California’s elimination of redevelopment agencies statewide.

“Confronted by a nihilist, antisocial philosophy that says we cannot afford health care, public education and affordable housing for the broad majority of our fellows, both national and state governments have withdrawn their support for affordable housing,” Welch said.

Lee called the project “transformative,” noting that The City has a plan to build at least 3,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years.

“This project … gets us to about 1,977 of that commitment,” Lee said. “And we still have to move forward.”

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