June 22, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Why the Off-Site Radius Should be Removed

Because of the affordability crisis, there is enormous pressure on market-rate developers to increase production of affordable housing. If, under the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, they built their affordable housing off-site, instead of the standard 12 percent affordable rate, they would deliver 20 percent – a big improvement. However, the off-site option is very rarely used due to the difficulty of finding feasible locations within a radius of 1-mile from the principle development — the rule that exists today.

Since the introduction of the off-site radius in 2006, only a single off-site project has been completed under the 1-mile-requirement. It could not be clearer that the rules need to change if we are to build more affordable housing — without increased taxpayer support.

There is currently a legislative proposal to increase the radius distance to 1.25 miles (a mere 4 blocks in most cases) This is not enough! 

The Tale of 1400 Mission Street:
Grandfathered under old rules, 1400 Mission is the great example of what’s possible without a radius. Developers of the market-rate Lumina project at 201 Folsom Street partnered with nonprofit housing developer Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) to create 190 new permanently affordable homes in the heart of Mid-Market, close to transit and walkable to downtown. Lumina’s contribution exceeded the 20 percent off-site requirement, and delivered 25 percent affordability.

Opening next month, 1400 Mission offers a mix of below-market-rate middle-income homes, from studios to three-bedroom homes. 167 of them will sell in the low $200,000s to the mid $300,000s, available to individuals earning up to $71,350 or $101,900 for a family of four — 100 percent of the Area Median Income).

Sounds great, right? Well, projects like 1400 Mission could NOT be built under current or proposed rules since it is located 1.8 miles away from the principle project which funded it.

Ask Supervisor Malia Cohen, Land Use Committee Chair; Olson Lee, Director or Mayor’s Office of Housing; and Mayor Ed Lee to eliminate the off-site radius

Why are the off-site housing rules so restrictive? The arbitrary 1-mile distance is based on the premise that market-rate, high-density urban infill development located near transit and jobs by itself has a negative impact that requires mitigation, like building the affordable housing close by. There are also concerns that without the radius, off-site housing might proliferate and become concentrated in ghettos of low-income housing in areas where land prices are lowest. One has to question these premises when it’s clear that the radius is effectively preventing new off-site housing from being built.

The SF Housing Action Coalition believes that adding to the permanently affordable housing stock in any and all neighborhoods within San Francisco’s 7×7 should be priority. Why aren’t we getting creative about solving a critical housing shortage vs. relying on old, arbitrary rules?

Try this:
– Remove the off-site inclusionary radius. Then, after 5 years, evaluate housing production to see if too much affordable housing was being concentrated in too small an area or whether the neighborhoods were dissatisfied with the results.
– Certain neighborhoods, like the Mission District, are clamoring for more affordable housing. We should encourage market-rate developers to find sites to build their off-site inclusionary housing in those neighborhoods.

At a time when the off-site inclusionary rules are under a microscope, let’s not restrict the potential for building 20 percent affordable housing for each new market-rate development.

Ask Land Use Committee Chair Supervisor Malia Cohen; Director of Mayor’s Office of Housing Olson Lee; and Mayor Ed Lee to eliminate the off-site radius. 

Sign the Petition

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.

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