We must work to make city affordable for everyone 

Mayor Ed Lee
  • mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mayor Ed Lee says we can do more to make San Francisco affordable.
In the past three years, we have cut the unemployment rate by half and have netted more than 42,000 new jobs. San Francisco continues to experience a broad-based economic recovery that is the envy of the nation and the world. And this robust economic growth has generated hundreds of millions of dollars of new revenue to fund vital city services.

We will never forget the double-digit unemployment, hopelessness and deep cuts to vital services we experienced during the Great Recession. But we must also work to ensure that all of our city residents have the opportunity to share and prosper in our economic recovery. And we must do more to ensure that San Francisco remains a place where people of every background can afford to live and work.

Too many of our fellow residents still feel left behind, unemployed or underemployed. And the rising cost of living and the financial squeeze on our city’s working families and middle class are the fundamental challenges of our time.

That is why I am committed to an affordability agenda for San Francisco, which starts with increasing the minimum wage. Working families cannot support themselves on the current minimum wage of $10.74 per hour. We must work together with small business, organized labor and others to bring a significant increase in the minimum wage to the ballot in 2014.

A true affordability agenda for our city must also include having a great public-transportation system, one that’s safe, affordable and reliable for everyone. More than ever, our aging fleet, our deteriorating roads and our growing population demand that we make greater investments in our transportation infrastructure for the future. In 2014, we must work together to pass a $500 million transportation bond and vehicle license fee increase to fund our transportation priorities. And with a comprehensive funding strategy in place, I have called for a repeal of Sunday parking meters to give drivers and families a rest from feeding the meters for just one day a week, once again.

And very importantly, nothing contributes more to the cost of living in our city than the cost of housing. In my State of the City address, I outlined a seven-point plan to build and rehabilitate 30,000 new homes by 2020, with a goal to ensure that at least one-third of those will be permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income families, and a majority within the reach of middle-class families.

We must also change state and local laws to prevent speculative Ellis Act evictions, stabilize our rent-controlled housing stock and revitalize our public housing.

And we must do more with the public and private sector to subsidize and incentivize housing options for the middle class, through downpayment assistance programs and new middle-income homeownership opportunities.

Neighborhoods outside of our city’s center such as the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Candlestick, Parkmerced and the old Schlage Lock site in Visitacion Valley are areas where we can develop and build more housing units affordable to the middle class.

We have come a great distance these past few years by working together, but there are still too many in our city we must lift up and too many we must still help to ensure that this will always be their city, too. This Lunar New Year, we start the Year of the Horse, which is the most energetic animal in the Chinese zodiac. There’s no better time to recommit ourselves to an aggressive affordability agenda for San Francisco that invests in building new affordable and middle-income housing, transportation, education and our economy for the future.

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco.

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