By Fernando Martí and Peter Cohen
Proposition I on the November 3rd ballot, the Housing Stability Act, will be a significant new revenue source to expand affordable housing for all and to keep renters housed, and our City needs it now more than ever!
With forty years of experience as the voice of affordable housing in San Francisco, the 23 member organizations of the Council of Community Housing Organizations – working in neighborhoods from the Tenderloin to Chinatown, South of Market, Fillmore, the Richmond, and the Sunset, to the Bayview, Excelsior, Mission, and Castro – know that the singular critical element for more housing in our city is increased public investment. Private real estate money comes and goes with the vicissitudes of the global markets, booms and busts, and pandemics, but it is public investments that keep us building and responding to San Franciscans’ real needs over the long haul. Prop I is the real deal: increased funding for increased affordable housing. It’s a “Yes” vote!
Affordable housing has always stepped up in times of emergency – for example, rehabbing seismically unfit buildings after the 1989 earthquake, innovating housing for people with AIDS through new federal funding, developing supportive housing to address homelessness, and acquiring small at-risk apartment buildings after the wave of speculation and evictions following the 2008 Recession – and San Francisco voters have always supported these efforts with a sense of justice and solidarity. This is why the Council of Community Housing Organizations is supporting a slate of measures, including Props A, F, I, K, and 15, that will invest in housing for our communities.
Proposition I, the Housing Stability Act, answers the direct and immediate needs of people’s experience facing housing instability during this COVID-19 pandemic and rapid economic recession. These new funds will be programmed explicitly for affordable housing to low-income and middle-income families and to support renters and small landlords strained by income losses.
Prop I is a very simple ballot measure — the City’s transfer tax on properties sold for over $10 million will be increased, raising between $100 and $150 million annually to earmark for affordable housing and rent relief for everyday San Franciscans. That’s worth repeating: Proposition I is carefully focused on raising funds from very-high-value real estate activity. And there’s a lot of money being made in those sales.
Sadly, some “pro-development” groups and influence-peddlers are promoting disinformation and sowing confusion in order to protect the interests of corporate speculators. They are irresponsibly trying to mislead voters, while those of us in the affordable housing industry are solidly in support of Prop I. The fact is, Proposition I will be a boon for housing production in San Francisco! Despite how some of these opposition forces describe themselves, they are in effect anti-housing, with a deep misunderstanding of how to expand housing production during a Recession in order to produce affordability for everyday San Franciscans.
During the 2008 Recession, as low-income homeowners and mom-and-pop landlords struggled to hold on, institutional investment firms took advantage of a real estate market ripe for exploitation. San Francisco saw an unprecedented consolidation of ownership to corporate investors, forcing many tenants and vulnerable homeowners out of their homes. This speculation has played a fundamental role in the displacement of working-class everyday people from San Francisco. Big real estate is once again planning for a huge buy up of distressed residential properties in the wake of COVID-19. The Housing Stability Act is a key response to this expected real estate shakeout.
San Francisco is a resilient city: our history of can-do attitude and proactive investments has made us a national leader on so many issues. And we can do it again on November 3rd. Prop I is good for affordable housing, and our City needs it now more than ever. The Council of Community Housing Organizations supports Proposition I, and so should you!
Fernando Martí and Peter Cohen are Co-Directors for the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of 23 community-based affordable housing developers and housing justice advocates.