Ed Lee to put focus on housing in State of the City address 

click to enlarge Mayor Ed Lee
  • Justin Sullivan/2011 Getty Images file photo
  • Mayor Ed Lee has housing in mind for his State of the City address.
Mayor Ed Lee is promising to add 30,000 more housing units to the market within the next six years with at least half accessible to those earning middle incomes or less, as San Francisco’s rents continue to soar and force many to flee to less expensive pastures.

Today, Lee will outline his housing agenda during the State of the City address at the old naval shipyard at Hunters Point, where there are currently 272 housing units under construction by homebuilder Lennar Urban that the mayor said will provide San Francisco’s middle-income earners with more real estate options as soon as this summer.

While focusing on the housing crisis, Lee is sure to highlight the flourishing economy that has helped reduce the unemployment rate to 5.3 percent during the past three years and contributed to the recent construction boom.

In 2009, there was a historic peak of 3,500 housing units built in The City. That dropped off to mere hundreds during the economic downturn. Lee now wants 5,000 built a year.

“We’ve got to build more, we’ve got to build faster,” Lee said Thursday.

The mayor’s address will take aim at the impacts of having a strong local economy spurred by a flourishing technology industry that he has encouraged through various city policies.

With the success have come increases in evictions and soaring rents, along with an overall increase in cost-of-living expenses. The median home price in San Francisco as of November was $880,700 and the median rent $3,422, according to the real estate website Zillow.

Lee will discuss today a “seven-point housing plan” that calls for speeding up approval processes of development; increased investment in housing assistance programs; development on publicly owned land; and density or height bonuses for developers who build more than the required amount of below-market-rate units. He also wants to try to persuade property owners of five to 15 units to sell to The City at a competitive price as a way to preserve rent-controlled units and counter evictions made under the state Ellis Act law.

The mayor will also be lobbying Sacramento lawmakers in the coming weeks to change the Ellis Act, which allows property owners to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business.

The number of rent-controlled housing units declined for the third consecutive year to 171,305 in fiscal year 2012-13, from 172,322 in the previous fiscal year, according to a City Controller’s Office report.

In the past decade, housing developers produced 1,476 new below-market-rate housing units while there were 1,763 Ellis Act-related evictions.

One program that offers down-payment-assistance loans will help more than 2,500 additional middle-income families buy a home during the next six years with greater investment, increasing amounts from $100,000 to $200,000.

Thirty percent of the total housing goal would be units for lower-income residents. For a family of four, that means they are earning $50,000 a year or less. And 25 percent of the goal is targeted for middle-income owners, defined as a family of four making between $100,000 to $150,000 annually.

Lee will also try to cool down critics of the technology industry, which is fielding much of the blame for rising costs.

“Too often, in frustration, some people turn to easy targets instead — a commuter shuttle bus or a company’s IPO or, even, toast,” a draft of Lee’s speech said. “What our housing crisis demands are real solutions and a shared vision, not easy slogans and divisive scapegoating.”

Seven-point plan

Mayor Ed Lee’s proposal to address San Francisco’s housing crisis:

1. Protect residents from eviction and displacement, including Ellis Act reform

2. Stabilize and protect at-risk rent-controlled units

3. Revitalize and rebuild public housing

4. Double down-payment loans and use publicly owned land for housing for middle-income earners

5. Speed up approval process of below-market-rate housing projects

6. Continue to build market-rate units, especially rental units

7. Make construction of new housing easier

Source: Mayor’s Office

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