Supes, labor advocates: City’s workforce desperately needs affordable housing

Many union workers are unable to live in SF, report finds

San Francisco supervisors, housing advocates and labor organizers agreed Monday that more must be done to address the housing crisis, which has left many people unable to afford to live in the city in which they work.

During a hearing on affordable housing for The City’s workforce in a meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee, Supervisor Gordon Mar called for an expansion of programs and funding that serve low-income families to further serve workers.

“Over the past decade, the new housing that’s been constructed and permitted in our city has been extremely imbalanced and overwhelmingly of one typology: luxury condos and apartments,” Mar said. “This type of housing, while meeting the needs of single, high-income workers, has been overbuilt, and with pandemic-driven changes to how and where some of us work, demand for high rise luxury condos cratered over the past two years.”

He added, “If we are to bring needed balance to our city’s housing development and extend housing opportunities for the essential workforce and the people in our community in need of stable and affordable housing, we need to continue to fight for greater public investment, appropriate regulations and equitable land use policies.”

According to a report released last month by Jobs with Justice, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, and San Francisco Labor Council, the overall area median income for San Francisco is $93,250, while the 2020 median annual income of union workers is considerably less at about $67,350.

Given such disparities, the report found that while occupations like registered nurses made about $4,000 monthly, that’s barely enough to afford a one bedroom apartment in The City, which according to market rental rates goes for about $3,289.

Firefighters, sanitation workers, transit workers and nonprofit workers, among other occupations, earn far less so face even more barriers to housing, according to the report.

The report also found over 40% of the city’s union workers live outside The City.

“Most unionized workers in our city need affordable housing opportunities,” said San Francisco Labor Council Vice President Connie Ford. “We need to reframe this critical issue of housing and proximity to their jobs. We need additive solutions, ones that do not leave or reduce investment for any of the low-wage workers but expands the funding and programs that serve all of San Francisco’s workforce.”

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, committee chair, said the limited options for low- to moderate-income workers was frustrating.

“I know full well that for a lot of folks, they want to be close to schools, close to open space, close to the beach, close to City College, and it’s important that we provide those options especially for families and workers who are contributing to the life of our city,” she said.

“When workers are commuting hours just to find housing for their families… I see this report as a wake-up call,” said Supervisor Dean Preston. “All type of workers at all income levels are struggling to afford a roof over their heads.”

Supervisors continued the hearing, with plans to revisit the topic along with The City’s Planning Department and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

The report, called Housing Our Workers: Getting to a Jobs-Housing Fit, can be found at sfccho.org/housing-our-workers.

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