An enormous sigh of relief was heard in San Francisco last Thursday afternoon as Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim compromise reached an agreement that allowed both sides to put down their weapons and withdraw their two competing ballot initiatives for November. If you don’t recall, Sup. Kim had introduced a ballot initiative (“Housing Metering”) that, in SFHAC’s view, would have threatened new housing production by requiring a conditional use permit for any proposed development of 25 units or larger when the City’s overall housing affordability fell below 30 percent. Unquestionably, it would make building multi-family housing riskier and more uncertain. To counter this, Mayor Lee introduced a competing measure (“Build Housing Now”) that, among other things, contained a “poison pill” that would revoke the key feature of Sup. Kim’s measure.
This detente is great news for the City’s housing community because it means focusing on the issues that unite us instead of the ones that divide us. In this case, there’s pretty broad consensus that finding additional funding to support housing affordability is something we all agree on, from the market-rate builders to the non-profit builders and community activists. While finding a lasting solution to our housing crisis will be an enormous long-term challenge, it’s much preferable than being at each other’s throats in a bitter, divisive political campaign until November and beyond.
The negotiations that took place between the two camps starting in late-June was a race to the finish to meet the the legal deadlines imposed by the City’s election laws. The last date to modify or withdraw ballot initiatives is Friday, Aug 1st. As of this writing, the compromised ballot initiative still needed to be brought to the full Board of Supervisors in order for it to be approved for the November ballot.
Going forward, the negotiated settlement between the two camps calls for a Housing Action and Neighborhood Stabilization Plan, whose main purpose is to agree on both how funding will be raised to improve housing affordability and to what specific purposes it would be put. Those discussions are underway at this minute and when the Terms of Agreement is reached, SFHAC will announce them. At this point, however, it appears that consensus is gathering around its main element, a housing bond ballot initiative in 2015. This would be used largely for neighborhood “stabilization”, used for the production and stabilization of affordable housing in San Francisco which could include the acquisition and rehabilitation of currently affordable rent-controlled housing to prevent displacement of its residents. There are various other funding sources being discussed as well as uses for the funding that are part of the final deal between the two camps. After all is said and done, SFHAC thinks that, while getting voters to approve more funding is always a challenge, this compromise measure is a much preferable direction in creating more affordable housing. Stay tuned!