SF’s affordability is top concern in new poll from SF Chamber of Commerce

Affordability in The City has topped another poll, beating out homelessness as the top concern for residents.

The annual San Francisco Chamber of Commerce poll set to be released today shows 55 percent of respondents ranked the cost of owning a home, or high rents and affordability, as the top issue facing San Francisco.

In 2012, as The City was just emerging from the downturn of the Great Recession, 9 percent of those polled ranked cost of rents and affordability as a major issue and 12 percent highlighted the cost of owning a home. In this year’s poll, 34 percent ranked the cost of owning a home as the major issue and cost of rents 21 percent. Twenty-nine percent still viewed homelessness as a major issue this year.

“Affordability and housing are very clearly the top concerns of voters in The City,” said Gwen Oldham, a spokeswoman for the chamber.

The results are far from surprising, as other polls released in recent months also have affordability as the top issue. Tenant advocates have been decrying the effect of the affordability crisis for quite some time and asking for increased protections for tenants. Mayor Ed Lee’s State of the City address last month focused on affordability and highlighted his plans for housing, which included the goal of building 30,000 units for low- and middle-income residents within six years.

Affordability also seems to be affecting how people feel about The City’s direction. In 2013, when San Francisco appeared safely out of the economic downturn with strong job growth and decreasing office vacancy rates, 60 percent polled said The City was moving in the right direction. This year that response to the question decreased by 10 percentage points.

The chamber poll also tested the voters’ appetite for tax measures, fee increases and bonds being considered for the November ballot. The results may dampen the spirits of those championing a tax for sugary beverages.

When asked if they would support the proposed 2-cents-an-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, 51 percent of respondents said they supported it while 47 percent opposed the idea. It would take two-thirds of voters to pass it since the money from the tax would be earmarked for nutrition and physical activity programs.

“There’s a long way to the November election, but clearly these numbers show the work that needs to be done,” Oldham said.

The possibility of a $500 million general obligation bond to pay for Muni infrastructure projects didn’t fare too much better, showing 54 percent in support. It would also take a two-thirds threshold of approval to pass.

But the poll showed voters did have an appetite for boosting the vehicle license fee locally from 0.65 percent to 2 percent, which would take a simple majority to pass. Fifty-two percent said they would support the idea. This tax hike is being considered to generate $73 million annually for Muni.

The phone poll, with 23 percent reached on cellphone and 77 percent on landline, was conducted among 500 city voters in January by David Binder Research with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. The poll took place between Jan. 25 and Jan. 27.

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