SF voters will weigh $600 million affordable housing bond, the biggest in city history

Author: Dominic Fracassa

Date: 10/20/2019

Publication: San Francisco Chronicle

There’s a thorny problem at the heart of San Francisco’s efforts to build more affordable housing for low- and middle-income people: If the city stands any chance of creating more of it, it’s going to need money — a lot of it.

Right now in San Francisco, bringing an affordable housing development to fruition generally takes around five years and $700,000 per unit.

That’s a big reason why officials and advocates are rallying behind November’s Proposition A. The $600 million measure is the largest affordable housing bond in the city’s history, in part a reflection of the magnitude of the housing affordability crisis.

Prop. A almost doubles the city’s last affordable housing bond, a $310 million measure voters approved in 2015. That measure financed the creation and preservation of nearly 1,400 units. Construction costs, however, have gone up since then.

Like all bond measures in San Francisco, Prop. A needs a two-thirds vote to pass.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the nerve center of affordable housing development in San Francisco, estimates that if Prop. A passes, around 2,800 units of housing will be built or rehabilitated. The city’s taxpayers usually contribute between $250,000 and $300,000 per unit. In most cases, developers obtain the rest from a patchwork of state and federal funding programs as well as tax credits and sometimes loans from the private market.

A bevy of local and state officials are behind the measure, including Mayor London Breed and the entire Board of Supervisors. Breed began publicly pushing for an affordable housing bond in January. It started out as a $300 million proposal, but it doubled in size after the city controller’s office found that San Francisco could take on a larger debt without raising property taxes.

Breed and Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee introduced the bond and co-chaired a large working group that hashed out how the money would be spent. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to put the bond on the ballot.

“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,” Breed said after the board’s vote. “Building more housing requires a wide range of solutions, and this bond is a key part of that effort.”


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