Moratorium takes homes off market

The lack of available housing is creating major problems for San Francisco residents — particularly renters and low-income families.

Opponents of Proposition I, the housing moratorium, have made that argument in urging voters to join such leaders as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in voting “No on I.”

But it is also the point the San Francisco Examiner made in offering its editorial support for Proposition F, which would restrict short-term rentals in San Francisco. As the editorial board noted, Prop. F “is needed to help stem the loss of rental units in this city, where the issue of affordability is displacing an increasing number of residents.”

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Prop. F, the underlying math is undoubtedly true: Fewer homes means higher prices, more evictions and more displacements.

Prop. I also takes homes off the market — about 1,500 homes currently in development, including hundreds of affordable homes.

And Prop. I doesn’t do anything to restrict the demand for housing. If new arrivals in San Francisco want to move to the Mission and have no new homes to move into, they will bid up existing units. As the principal of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation, I’ve seen this happen far too many times before. “No new homes” doesn’t equal “no new residents.” Instead, existing residents get pushed out.

Of course, Prop. I proponents say they are also worried about displacements and evictions. They believe an 18-month moratorium, which could be extended by another full year, would give The City time to plan for the future of the Mission and the need for more affordable housing.

But just a few weeks ago, those same proponents released a plan to build subsidized homes in the Mission district — and it didn’t take a moratorium on housing and loss of nearly 1,500 homes to get that plan. We all know that we need more homes and more subsidized homes to stabilize prices.

Further, this “pause” comes on the heels of an almost decade-long pause during the creation of The City’s Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plans. That “pause” contributed to the current crisis. What we learned from that experiment is that if we’re not building new homes and anticipating future growth, it is our low-income and middle-class families that pay the price.

Finally, while proponents claim Prop. I would allow for construction of subsidized housing projects, they fail to answer the question on how that would happen. Right now, we require the owners of new developments either construct subsidized homes or pay a fee to The City to be used to fund subsidized homes. But if we stop market-rate construction, then all new units will have to be 100 percent subsidized, city-funded housing projects — paid for by taxpayers. And Prop. I doesn’t actually require constructing any affordable homes in the Mission or anywhere else.

The demand for housing is high — the demand for housing in the
Mission is even higher. Not building new homes won’t change that. But Prop. I will make the housing crisis worse.

Please join Sen. Feinstein, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Mission Democratic Club and the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation in voting “no” on I.

Sonja Trauss is the founder of the SFBA Renters’ Federation and SFBA Renters PAC.

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