San Francisco mayor proposes $600m to tackle housing crisis

Voters in San Francisco, California will be asked to support its mayor’s plan to raise $600m to spend on 2,800 new affordable homes, with construction starting in the next four years.

The city’s legislative body, the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously on 9 July to put a $600m Affordable Housing Bond, proposed by Mayor London N. Breed (pictured), on the ballot of city elections scheduled for 5 November.

Two-thirds of voters must agree to the measure, which is intended to fund the creation, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable housing for seniors, veterans, families and teachers.

"We are in a housing crisis that is pushing out our low- and middle-income residents and we desperately need more affordable housing," said Mayor Breed, who was elected in June last year.

"This Bond will allow us to create more affordable homes for seniors, continue rebuilding our public housing throughout the City, begin construction on projects for low-income residents that are ready to be built today, and keep current tenants housed. Building more housing requires a wide range of solutions, and this Bond is a key part of that effort."

To help draft the measure, the mayor and Board of Supervisors president, Norman Yee, convened a working group of community leaders, housing activists, developers and neighbourhood representatives.

The Board of Supervisors will take a second vote on 16 July before the Bond is officially placed on the ballot. The November elections are being held to fill certain vacancies in city government posts.

"This Bond is a reflection of what is possible when we work together collaboratively. I am hopeful that the voters of San Francisco will agree overwhelmingly that affordable housing is a public need and that this Bond is worthy of their support," said Board President Norman Yee.

"San Franciscans want more options to stay and grow right here in San Francisco-not in Oakland, not in Daly City," said Vallie Brown, one of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors. "We need to raise funds now to build more affordable housing. That’s at least half the battle."

The $600m would be allocated roughly as follows:

  • $220m: building, buying or rehabilitating permanently affordable, shovel-ready rental projects;
  • $150m: refurbishing distressed public housing and its underlying infrastructure;
  • $150m: new affordable senior housing rental housing;
  • $30m: acquiring and rehabilitating rental housing at risk of losing affordability, whether through market forces or a building’s physical decline;
  • $30m: new affordable housing opportunities through down payment assistance loans, and the purchase of building or lands for new affordable construction;
  • $20m: affordable rental housing for teachers and school workers.

Image: San Francisco Mayor, London Breed, at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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