Realtor ballot measure would negate ‘affordable’ units in San Francisco

For working San Franciscans, finding a place to live may soon go from near impossible to complete pipe dream.

A ballot measure written by the San Francisco Association of Realtors, added last week to the ticket for this November’s election, asks voters to drastically redefine the “affordable” part of affordable housing.

The Realtors’ measure would not create a single new affordable unit. Instead, it changes the rules for “below-market-rate” (BMR) units in new developments. The realtors seek to raise the income cap for BMR units from 55 percent of “area median income” (AMI) to 110 percent AMI. This means developers can choose tenants for these units with double the income at double the rent, resulting in millions of dollars in windfall profits for developers and Realtors.

The measure would eliminate housing opportunities for households earning up to approximately $56,000, making it virtually impossible for retail workers, cab drivers, artists, musicians, dishwashers, nonprofit workers, preschool teachers and struggling families to stay in The City. The measure targets the lowest rungs of the income ladder and makes them unable to get affordable housing.

The Realtors’ timing could not be worse. In the midst of San Francisco’s unprecedented affordability crisis, The City is poised to take a long overdue step forward by passing Proposition C in June. Prop. C will expand the number of below-market-rate units required in new residential developments, adding thousands of below-market-rate units for San Franciscans over the next decade.

The Realtors’ ill-conceived November ballot measure would reverse affordability gains that Prop. C will bring. Rather than create affordable housing, the Realtor-sponsored measure seeks to pit struggling San Franciscans against each other when it comes to who gets BMR units. 

We need to work together to expand the supply of affordable housing in San Francisco, not play politics with affordable housing development. San Franciscans and our elected leaders should reject this cynical and divisive measure.

Dean Preston is a tenant advocate and candidate for District 5 supervisor.

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