San Francisco teacher Matt Bello, second from the right, stands in the living room of his Clement Street home with his roommates, from left, Karyn Smoot, Matt Collado and Spencer Rangitsh, right. The group is facing a rent increase. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Housing crisis continues to grip SF teachers, even after bond approval

Despite voter approval earlier this month of a bond that will help house San Francisco’s public school teachers, educators are still struggling to find homes they can afford, and some worry that support from The City won’t come soon enough.

The $310 million bond is the largest ever affordable housing bond in San Francisco history. It includes some $80 million to repair and reconstruct public housing, $50 million to develop low-income housing in the Mission – considered Ground Zero for the housing crisis – and $100 million to develop and preserve homes for low-income residents.

There is also $80 million in the bond specifically to assist middle-income households, including educators. San Francisco generally defines middle-income residents as those who earn 80 to 150 percent of the area median income, which in The City is $71,350 for one person and $101,900 for a family of four.

The middle-income bracket of the bond earmarks $5 million to renew The City’s Teacher Next Door Program, in which teacher households that meet certain conditions receive a $20,000 grant to purchase below-market-rate homes or to assist with down payments.

That money is expected to help 250 teachers.

There are other efforts in the works to help house teachers as well. The City is exploring using San Francisco Unified School District-owned property to build housing specifically for educators, although a site has not yet been identified for such a purpose. And last month, Mayor Ed Lee announced his intention to provide housing for 500 teachers by 2020.

“We hope to reach as many teachers as possible through a combination of measures,” said Kate Hartley, deputy director of housing for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

But Matt Bello, a teacher at Civic Center Secondary School, which has some of the district’s most at-risk students, is among the public school educators feeling squeezed by the housing crisis. He doesn’t expect that programs from the bond will help him remain in The City.

Bello, 33, shares a five-bedroom home in the Richmond with four roommates who pay $3,100 a month total for the space – but recently learned their rent will nearly double to $6,000 a month on Jan. 1.

Bello says he and his roommates cannot afford that amount.

“Even with the bond, there’s going to be very few non-market-rate apartments available for teachers,” said Bello. “If we want to retain teachers in San Francisco, we have to have thousands of homes that are accessible to [them].”

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling programs for the Housing Rights Committee, said he hears tales each day of sharp rent increases that ultimately lead to displacement in The City, particularly in units that are not subject to rent control like in Bello’s case.

“Unfortunately, if the unit doesn’t have rent control, there’s really not much you can do about it,” Mecca said.

Bello said he had previously believed his home was rent-controlled, but through the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act most single-family homes and condominiums in San Francisco are actually exempt.

Planning commissioners have previously discussed exploring a policy to better preserve The City’s dwindling rent-controlled housing stock. But reform of the Costa-Hawkins Act or Ellis Act – under which a landlord can evict tenants from rent-controlled housing in order to exit the rental business and is widely considered a source of the housing crisis – is ultimately in the hands of California law.

Meanwhile, The City is exploring other ways to enhance its middle-income housing stock. Hartley said city officials expect to launch a middle-income rental program in the coming months that would help private developers fund more of such homes than is required by the inclusionary housing ordinance.

“Those are the types of units that directly serve teachers and people of similar income levels,” Hartley said.

 

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