Planning Commission approves expansion of educator, affordable housing program

The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved an expansion of an affordable and educator housing program that will boost the number of three-bedroom units created.

Under the changes, the program set forth by last year’s Proposition E will specifically require 10 percent of affordable units built to contain three bedrooms while allowing higher heights and allow smaller lots of as little as 8,000 square feet to be eligible. Prop. E, approved in November with 76 percent of the vote, allows 100 percent affordable housing to be built on public land.

Supervisor Norman Yee brought forward the bedroom requirement. Currently, 50 percent of units are required to have two or more units.

About 13 percent of working renters that are eligible for affordable housing under Prop. E could need a three-bedroom unit, according to the Planning Department. Yee’s office wanted to ensure families would have enough space.

“We’re really trying to build a housing stock that could keep families here and attract and retain [families],” said Jen Low, legislative aide to Yee, to the Planning Commission. “We are in need of the right-sized housing. It’s important for us to set the tone and set the standard.”

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer was behind the second change, which expands the number of projects that would qualify for the program. Projects on lots with at least 8,000 feet would be able to tap into the streamlining benefits, down from the current 10,000 square feet.

Planning Department staff recommended lowering it further to 3,000 square feet but Commissioners Milicent Johnson, Deland Chan, and Kathrin Moore sought further data as no current projects would benefit from the change. The threshold does not apply to vacant or parking lots.

“I think it makes sense for the Planning Department to really take a step back and look at the bedroom mix and try to balance [it],” Johnson said. “I support the legislation as is to get the legislation moving forward and revise it based on data coming in.”

Some projects would also be able to build up higher. Those on sites with a 40-foot height limit could go another 10 feet and projects on sites with a shorter height limit would be allowed another 20 feet.

Commissioner unanimously approved the legislation, which will move to the Board of Supervisors.

Prop. E was approved in November alongside Proposition A, a $600 million affordable housing bond that reserved $20 million for educator housing. Such projects are relatively new, with The City’s 135-unit project at Francis Scott Key Annex reserved for San Francisco Unified School District educators the primary example.

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