Poll shows strong support for June measure to raise affordable housing requirements

A poll released Wednesday by the South of Market nonprofit development firm Tenants and Owners Development Corp. shows San Francisco voters would support a measure increasing The City's affordable housing requirements of private developers. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)

San Francisco voters would support a ballot measure as early as next summer that more than doubles the below-market-rate housing requirements of private developers.

That’s according to a poll released Wednesday by the South of Market nonprofit development firm Tenants and Owners Development Corp., which asked 400 voters to weigh in on the housing crisis and whether city officials are adequately tackling the issue.

The poll results come a week after Mayor Ed Lee announced he is pursuing a charter amendment likely for the November 2016 ballot that would require more below-market-rate housing in residential developments, though an exact amount has yet to be determined. Lee is convening a housing working group to establish the possible changes.

The current inclusionary requirements call for developers of projects with at least 10 residential units to pay a fee, build 12 percent of below market-rate housing on the same site as the market-rate project, or build 20 percent of such units at another location.

Of the voters surveyed in TODCO’s poll, 71 percent said they would support a June measure to increase the below-market-rate housing requirement from 12 percent to 25 percent on-site, with 15 percent dedicated to lower-income residents and 10 percent for middle-income residents.

“My takeaway from this poll is that the public will vote yes to increase inclusionary housing,” said John Elberling, TODCO’s director and a member of the mayor’s housing working group. “Getting 71 percent support for that is huge. That’s a landslide.”

The poll also revealed that most respondents – 82 percent – are aware of the housing crisis, and 61 percent disapprove of The City’s efforts to address the problem. Additionally, 41 percent of respondents said they feel personally affected by the housing crisis.

“People are scared,” Elberling said. “They’re scared about losing their home, and not being able to find a new place if they have to move.”

Elberling also noted that the poll showed strong support for a measure in June, as opposed to November when the presidential election will likely bring a greater electorate turnout.

“The City can’t wait until the November election to do this,” Elberling said. “We don’t have five months to wait. It’s a crisis now and The City has to take action now.”

City leaders have said that increasing inclusionary housing requirements would better align San Francisco with its goal of earmarking 33 percent of all new homes as below market-rate — an effort supported by voters last year through Proposition K.

Most developments don’t include that level of below market-rate homes. Data from the second Housing Balance Report, released by the Planning Department in September, found 28 percent of net new housing produced between July 2005 and June 2015 was below market-rate.

Tweaks to the current inclusionary requirements are already in the works. Earlier this year, the mayor and Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced amendments to the inclusionary housing ordinance that would include the creation of a “dial” to allow a project sponsor – without spending more money – to build additional below-market-rate homes for residents who fall in the middle-income category.

The poll, commissioned last month by TODCO, was conducted by David Binder Research between Dec. 3 and 6 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

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