August 17, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Local Density Bonus Aims to Reach 30% Affordability

Last Friday, Kearstin Dischinger from the Planning Department presented her team’s work on the Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP), a new initiative that aims to reach the city’s affordable housing goals through greater density. The San Francisco AHBP goes above and beyond the state’s density bonus, removing density restrictions in non-planned area neighborhoods in exchange for delivering 30% on-site affordable housing.

In the City’s research for the AHBP, they looked at 30,800 parcels in parts of the city that have not been rezoned since the 1970s and still have density limits regulated by a ratio of units to lot area. Their study area identifies 240 soft-sites that have the potential to deliver 5,000 affordable and 11,000 market- rate homes if density limits were removed. If you compare that to the current situation with density restrictions, these sites could only deliver 900 affordable and 7,400 market-rate. By taking away current density restrictions in residential mixed-use neighborhoods the AHBP makes sites more buildable. And at the same time, creates new middle-income housing for 120% AMI rental and 140% AMI for ownership.

Through the Affordable Housing Bonus Program builders will providing the standard 12% on-site affordable units at 55% AMI (rental) or 90% AMI (owner) plus an additional 18% affordable homes at 120% AMI (rental) or 140% AMI (owner). In exchange for the increased affordable homes, the city will waive density and bulk limits, thereby creating more housing in the current zoning. Developers will also be eligible for 1-3 concessions (this menu and final numbers will be released shortly by the Planning Department). If additional height is needed to incorporate the 30% affordability, up to two floors will be granted. These two floors will keep the building to the same construction type, and not overwhelm residential mixed use neighborhoods. There will be height, bulk and unit mix requirements similar to the Market & Octavia plan. For example, AHBP projects will need to comply to the 40% 2-bedroom requirement, making the new homes appealing to families.

State law applies to projects with 5 units or more.  This program is not mandatory, and market-rate builders can submit projects as usual or, they can apply for either the state or local density bonus. This program eliminates the need for Special Use District since projects will be reviewed as code conforming, which many of the developers in the room were happy to hear. Plus, the program will fall under the 2014 Housing Element’s EIR which should make it legislatively feasible this year. The Mayor’s Office of Housing will manage the 18% middle-income BMRs just like they do for the other BMR units.

Planning aims at having draft legislation by early Fall, with the Affordable Housing Bonus Program legislated by year’s end.

In addition to the Planning Department incentivizing greater levels of on-site housing affordability, creating a new middle income housing tool, and making underutilized sites more developable, they added perks for 100% affordable housing with the AHBP – which includes an optional 3-added floor increase, and extended entitlements up to 10 years (compared to the current 3-year extension).

The SFHAC has been working with the City for about 18-months on developing the Affordable Housing Bonus Program, and pleased with the current proposal. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

See The Planning Department’s Presentation

Image credit: Panoramic Interests and Macy Architecture

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

Stay Up to Date

Get weekly updates with housing news, HAC updates, and more!