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Prop. 10 will make housing crisis worse

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A man walks past candidate signs for the November 2018 Election hanging outside Pineapple King Bakery on Irving Street near 20th Avenue in the Sunset District on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The Bay Area is Ground Zero for California’s housing crisis. As the local economy continues to boom, and our region serves as an economic engine for the entire state, a critical shortage in affordable housing is transforming our communities and threatening our residents and our future growth.

To make this dire situation even worse, we face another threat on the November ballot, Proposition 10, that would make it harder to build new affordable units and add to our current housing crisis.

We are simply not building enough housing to support our economic growth, and our residents are paying the price. For many people in our region, it is increasingly difficult to keep up with the rising cost of living, even though many economic indicators are stronger than they’ve been in years.

Increased demand for housing is driving up prices and placing real pressures on families and others struggling to keep pace. Because we are not creating enough new housing to meet the region’s needs, the prices of the few units on the market are getting higher. This shortage in supply is at the heart of our current housing crisis, and it is a problem that is only made worse by Prop. 10.

Local NIMBYism and government maneuvers have also fed our housing woes and have further slowed construction of new affordable units.

In 2011, funds for new housing dried up nearly overnight when state lawmakers in Sacramento ended redevelopment, taking away nearly $1 billion annually for affordable housing.

Since then, builders have tried to find new ways to build units specifically for those who cannot afford market rents. Affordable housing builders turned to new mixed-use projects, relying on market-rate rents to help finance units that would be rent controlled, and open to lower income and middle-class residents. These projects ensure that low- and middle-income residents can still afford to live in cities like San Francisco and Oakland that have become too expensive for many long-time residents.

But Proposition 10 would threaten the future of these types of projects, creating a series of new rules and regulations that would drive up the cost of new housing, and make it less likely that its built in the first place. Builders rely on rents from market-rate units to help subsidize price-controlled units in the same development project. The price controls permitted under Prop. 10 would make it financially untenable to create these types of projects.

Prop. 10 authors made a terrible mistake by failing to exclude affordable housing units from future rent control restrictions. Affordable housing communities are already subject to rent control by State of California and local agencies. Adding another layer or regulation and bureaucracy will only drive up the cost of building new housing and make it harder to offer new units at prices that low and middle-income Californians can afford.

We all know that California is in the midst of a critical housing shortage and affordability crisis. Solving a problem of this magnitude will take a comprehensive approach that includes protections for current tenants, as well as those who will be looking for affordable housing in the future. But Prop. 10 is a flawed measure that would make worse many of the problems the measure claims to try to solve.

While it is being sold as a silver bullet, Prop. 10 is a perfect example of a well-intentioned law with disastrous, unintended consequences. Prop. 10 is bad public policy that will make it harder for those looking for a safe, affordable place it live. Voters should reject this flawed measure, which would make it nearly impossible for policy makers and community leaders to solve our state’s housing crisis.

Don Perata served as an Alameda County Supervisor for eight years and as President pro Tem of the California State Senate.

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