By Todd David
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is at it again, with another resolution to make it harder to build affordable housing in San Francisco. The recently introduced resolution by Supervisor Mar is an attempt to push San Francisco’s housing responsibilities, and requirements, to other Bay Area communities. This attempt, disguised in progressive rhetoric, is yet another example of reactionary NIMBYism that continues to inhibit housing affordability in San Francisco.
While Supervisor Mar’s resolution takes aim at market rate housing, it would effectively stop the City from approving the building of subsidized affordable homes as well. The resolution calls for the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to disproportionately limit the increase of the City’s requirement for above-moderate, or market rate, housing target. Should the city’s market-rate Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) target be artificially low, mixed income projects won’t be approved by-right which will lessen the number of affordable homes for low- and middle-income San Franciscans. Further, by punting our housing responsibilities onto far-flung Bay Area jurisdictions, San Francisco housing costs will continue to skyrocket, and the workers who keep our city functioning will have no choice but to live far out of the city and commute for hours in to San Francisco for work.
In San Francisco, market rate housing pays for low-income housing through our inclusionary law. Abdicating our market rate obligations and placing them onto other jurisdictions, rather than embracing increased housing, is shortsighted and misaligned with San Francisco values. This is an opportunity to fuel San Francisco’s affordable housing pipeline. For example, these Inclusionary Units have accounted for over 1,700 new affordable homes between 2015 and 2019. That is roughly 35% of the total affordable housing created in this period. Additionally, in-lieu fees on market rate developments in the last 5 years have provided over $350 million to be used on 100% affordable projects . Over 2,600 affordable homes during this time were a part 1 of 100% affordable projects that received funding from these fees. We can not let the Supervisors get their wish, because building on top of the success of our inclusionary program means more affordable housing. 1 https://default.sfplanning.org/publications_reports/2019_Housing_Inventory.pdf, page 74.
Requesting that San Francisco be exempted from our housing responsibilities is regressive, no matter how much “Progressive” posturing is done. Opposing market-rate housing has never been, and never will be, progressive. For years, the city has not built its fair share of housing and instead has punted that responsibility to places with longer commutes and higher wildfire risk, resulting in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world.
To combat this, state Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 828 increased cities’ housing goals, and Senate Bill 35 streamlined the approval of housing in communities not meeting these goals. Supervisors want to stop these bills from their intended benefits by maintaining the status quo by embracing pretzel logic and writing nonsensical and contradictory resolutions, like Supervisor Mar’s.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 35 has reduced approval times for affordable housing by 95% in some California communities. We cannot let this opportunity to build affordable housing as quickly as possible be hijacked by Supervisors who refuse to support new housing in their neighborhoods.
This resolution creates a false dilemma between market rate units and affordable units, implying that we must choose one. This is not only untrue in principle, it is patently false in practice. Market rate units create and fund affordable ones, yet this resolution demonizes the former, while doing nothing to address the latter. Please email Board.Of.Supervisors@SFGov.org and tell them to reject the anti-housing resolution.
Todd David is executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.