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New, costly ‘Peskin Commission’ is not the answer to the housing crisis

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Supervisor Aaron Peskin speaks during the Board of Supervisors’ July 26 meeting at City Hall. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco is in the middle of a severe housing crisis. More and more San Franciscans can’t afford housing, and the current supply of affordable housing can’t meet the growing demand.

Our elected leaders should address the root causes of the problem by promoting common-sense policies, including adding to the housing supply and cutting the bureaucracy that makes housing more costly.

That’s what I am trying to do with my housing policies. As Budget Chair, I’ve made record-setting investments in affordable housing, year after year. And I just ushered through a new bill that will increase the supply of affordable housing by building thousands of new rent-controlled in-law units.

I don’t have all the answers, but I am working on real, common-sense solutions that address the crisis. Unfortunately, there is little common sense to be found in a ballot initiative written by my colleague, Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Peskin’s measure would create a new “Peskin Commission” to micromanage two little-known, hard-working city departments — the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development — that are focused on expanding the supply of affordable housing.

That’s right: Peskin’s solution to the housing crisis is to create a new, expensive layer of bureaucracy instead of further expanding the supply of affordable housing.

Why? Unfortunately, the answer is driven by inside-baseball politics rather than sound policy.

Peskin is upset about a ballot measure that requires competitive bidding for new affordable housing. It’s polling very well because it ensures a fair process and keeps housing costs lower.

Peskin doesn’t like the measure because it seeks to add competition where there currently is none. Under Peskin’s rival measure, the Peskin Commission would have the bureaucratic power to thwart the aims of the proposed competitive-bidding law.

So it’s clear that the creation of the Peskin Commission is motivated by petty politics. But inside baseball aside, why is it bad policy? There are three main reasons:

First, it’s expensive. The City Controller found that the Peskin Commission would come at a great cost. We’re talking about millions of dollars — and the taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

Second, it will slow down construction. Housing policy experts believe the Peskin Commission will unnecessarily delay the production of new affordable housing.

Third, it will drive up home prices. The experts believe that the Peskin Commission will further add to the cost of developing housing, and thus, higher and higher housing prices will result.

What we need is more affordable housing, built quickly, while avoiding unnecessary expense to the taxpayers. The Peskin Commission will do the opposite: It will drive up housing prices, slow down construction and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

Instead of putting up roadblocks to new affordable housing, we should be building bridges. More red tape is not the answer. More affordable housing is. That’s why I urge you to join leaders in labor and business in opposing the Peskin Commission.

Mark Farrell represents District 2 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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