California needs more housing, at a variety of household income levels, around job hubs across the state. (Courtesy photo)

2018 is a big year for affordable housing measures

It’s the year of affordable housing at the ballot box. This November, San Franciscans will have the opportunity to weigh in on four game-changing housing measures: Propositions 1, 2, and 10 on the state level and Prop C in San Francisco.

The federal government has abandoned public funding for affordable housing for so many everyday people, whether its individuals and families struggling with homelessness, seniors and the disabled, or working class families. Even “middle income” households are feeling the pinch. The private housing sector can address the upper end and some of the middle income needs at a regional scale, but the reality is more and more people are being dropped out of the housing “market.”

The only way to bridge the gap is for cities, and increasingly the state, to address the multiple angles of the affordability crisis. The housing measures on the November 2018 ballot are the kinds of comprehensive solutions we need that will address homelessness (Prop C and Prop 2), protect tenants (Prop 10), and preserve and produce housing for low and moderate-income Californians (Prop 1).

Proposition 1, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act, would dedicate $4 billion dollars to build and preserve affordable housing serving a wide range of households, with $1 billion earmarked specifically for veterans and their families. It is a widely supported measure and if passed, it will be the first major state investment in affordable housing since the 2006 state housing revenue measure.

Prop 2 would authorize $2 billion in bonds to build housing with services for Californians living with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at great risk of becoming homeless. The funding would come from the state’s “No Place Like Home” Program, created with the passing of the Mental Health Services Act in 2004. Prop 2 allows some funds from the existing program to be put into permanent housing solutions.

Prop 10 would help protect long-term residents and families at risk of displacement by allowing cities full authority to enact local rental control. This would be done by repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, a law that has handcuffed San Francisco for over two decades by placing restrictions on rent control policies. Costa-Hawkins denies families rent control protections if they live in a single family home and in San Francisco’s case, buildings built after 1978, or for a tenant signing a new lease — in other words, the apartment rent jumps all the way up to market rate once a former tenant moves out.

The idea behind Prop 10 is that every city should be able to decide what works best in its communities to fight the affordability crisis.

On the city level, Prop C, Our City Our Home, would provide $300 million annually towards permanent housing and support services for the City’s homeless residents. Funding would come from a marginal increase in the tax rate on San Francisco’s largest businesses that have over $50 million in revenues.

Tackling the affordability issues immediately will save the city money in the long run, particularly in reduced hospital and jail costs. Our City Our Home aims for early and permanent housing intervention to prevent these tremendous downstream expenses.

If Prop C passes, it is expected to support development of 4,000 new permanent housing units for homeless and marginally housed people, expand homelessness prevention services, and develop new public mental health resources. It is the one proposal on the table around homelessness that is actually big enough to make a difference.

Combined, these four housing measures for the November 2018 ballot are part of a larger solution to the region’s affordable housing crisis. They set a precedent of more comprehensive housing solutions that will confront the staggering eviction crisis, provide significant new funding for critical mental health services, and produce more affordable housing that has been a long time coming for our city and state.

They are by no means the only way to solve the affordable housing crisis, but together, they will help strengthen a holistic housing strategy for the city and the region.

Maya Chupkov is Communications Manager of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, representing 25 affordable housing developers and tenant and community organizations.

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