As a third generation resident of the Bayview, I know just how hard it is to be middle class in San Francisco. Growing up, it was not gifts nor decorations that signified the holiday season; it was overtime shifts. Because my family made just a bit too much to qualify for government programs — but not nearly enough to raise a family in The City — the holidays were an opportunity to work extra hours and bring home needed income.
In recent years, with the cost of living in San Francisco at an all-time high, the financial burden on The City’s middle-income residents has only grown. And the greatest challenge for these families — families like mine — is finding affordable housing.
The City has rightly focused its efforts on creating housing solutions for very low-income residents in the face of the affordability crisis. But as a result, working-class and middle-income households have been largely ignored. Only 8 percent of our below-market-rate rental units are available to middle-income residents, and San Francisco has therefore lost 15,000 middle-income residents in just the last five years.
These are the teachers, artists, nurses, construction workers, food service workers, first responders and veterans like my husband. We are the heart and soul of San Francisco, and we are being pushed out because we do not qualify for affordable housing but also cannot afford market-rate options.
Proposition U will help us stay in the city that we love. It would broaden the income requirements for individuals and families that apply for below-market-rate units, opening up select affordable units to households who make 110 percent of the area median or less. In other words, two person households making up to $94,750 and four person families making up to $106,650 annually will have a chance to apply for housing that was previously not available to them.
While opponents of this measure like to claim that it would somehow pit low- and middle-income San Franciscans against each other, this is just not the case. Prop. U simply gives middle-income residents a fair shot at housing that they can afford, while still preserving the vast majority of affordable units for low-income residents. In fact, under Prop. U 98 percent of current affordable housing units will remain exclusively for very low-income residents.
Furthermore, Prop. U guarantees that all San Franciscans in affordable units — regardless of income level — will spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Working families are getting squeezed out of San Francisco, and this measure is a necessary lifeline for them and a key step in the right direction for The City as a whole.
After all, a thriving city depends on qualified teachers to teach our kids, skilled nurses to care for our sick and first responders to save the day.
I hope you join me in voting “Yes” on Proposition U this November to help make San Francisco a place where all families can find a home.
Leah Pimentel is a native San Franciscan and Bayview community leader.