Prop. C would let city legislators determine affordable housing requirements in new developments

San Francisco voters will decide in June whether city legislators — rather than voters — should adjust the number of affordable housing requirements in new developments.

Proposition C would return power from voters to the Board of Supervisors to change the number of affordable homes — known as inclusionary housing — mandated in residential projects of certain sizes.

The measure is yet another proposal to address the lack of San Francisco homes available to low-income residents. While San Francisco has built 4,300 below-market-rate homes in the past decade, it has also lost 3,200 of such homes in the same period.

Meanwhile, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment has surpassed $3,500.

The board would determine the new number of inclusionary homes required using a feasibility study that’s mandated in the measure as well, but interim rates already approved by the board would be put into effect pending approval of Prop. C.

Currently, projects with at least 10 homes are required to offer 12 percent of those homes at below-market-rate. Developers may also pay a fee or build 20 percent of the homes as affordable off-site.

The trailing legislation effective if Prop. C is approved would require projects with at least 25 homes to include 25 percent of those units as below-market-rate, including 15 percent for low-income residents and 10 percent for middle-income residents.

That middle income bracket would apply to those who work as nurses or teachers, offering that group of a residents a dedicated source of housing in San Francisco for the first time.

“This is significant legislation,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who introduced the trailing legislation along with Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “If we move forward and we are able to raise inclusionary housing for all developments, we’re certainly setting a new standard, not just for our city but for the country.”

The legislation also requires the City Controller to issue by July 31 a feasibility study of affordable housing requirements, as well as follow up studies, which could impact when and if the board adjusts the 25 percent inclusionary housing rate.

In fact, the 25 percent mandated in the trailing legislation is the primary flaw with Prop. C, said Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition that has taken a neutral position on the measure even though the nonprofit supports building more affordable homes.

“The number 25 percent had no prior analysis,” Colen said. “It was pulled out of the air.”

But Kim was quick to justify the 25 percent because The City needs more affordable homes.

“Market-rate today in your average condo being built in South of Market [or] Mission Bay is 270 percent of [area] median income,” Kim said. “That means if you are a household of four, two adults, two kids, you are making $270,000 a year. That is who the market is building for today.”

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