October 26, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Planning for the Mission Beyond November 3rd

Supporters of the November 3rd Prop I – Mission housing moratorium ballot initiative – have described it as a “pause for a plan.” The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC) and others have asked, what do we want to accomplish during a pause? Earlier this month, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), the agency leading the Yes on Prop I campaign, published its framework for the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan to express their policy objectives.

Objectives include:
– Protect Tenants
– Preserve Rent-Controlled Homes We Have
– Produce Deeply Affordable Housing
– Zone for People’s Needs
– Promote Economic and Cultural Vitality

While the SFHAC strongly supports MEDA’s objectives, we are very concerned that some of the suggestions may be unrealistic, or impossible to achieve. However, the SFHAC looks forward to working alongside all stakeholders to find solutions to alleviate the housing affordability crisis in the Mission, whether Prop I passes or not.

476508427_33e38bc0a9_zRight now, the housing community – affordable and market-rate – are all pulling together to ensure that Prop A, the $310M Affordable Housing Bond, passes with a two-thirds vote next Tuesday. Prop A will be the biggest affordable housing bond ever passed in San Francisco and will provide new financial resources for affordable housing. $50M is dedicated from this bond for the Mission district to purchase land for affordable housing. A total win! Now, the Neighborhood Stabilization plan, is asking for an additional $50M – every year for the next 10 years through a Mission Neighborhood Stabilization Fund. This sounds great, however, this amount is predicated on untested, newly passed legislation and also based on unproven assumptions. IF raising this much funding in one neighborhood was really possible, wouldn’t the city be pursuing this already? Let’s put our heads together to find more realistic funding opportunities for affordable housing, because we all agree, we need new solutions.

This leads to a larger question: Has the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan been tested for economic feasibility?

We question the economics behind the Affordable-Housing Overlay zoning proposal, which drastically increases the Inclusionary housing requirements for practically all new construction in the neighborhood. Setting a 20 to 35 percent on-site requirement for low-income homes would effectively halt new residential construction. This level of affordability isn’t financially feasible, and would halt the very thing we need most – funding for new affordable housing.

The SFHAC believes we should harness private investment to help finance and build new affordable housing. However, the programs we put in place need to be carefully calibrated to ensure that we do not inadvertently drive away private investment.

Here’s what’s missing from MEDA’s list of affordable housing solutions:

The City’s recently proposed Affordable Housing Bonus Program (link), which uses a system of requirements and incentives to encourage 30% on-site low- and middle-income housing. How much new market-rate AND affordable housing could be built along Mission Street under a program like this? Could we work together to explore this possibility?  

Off-site inclusionary reform could waive the 1-mile radius under certain circumstances to support the Mission district’s need for affordable housing. We could encourage market-rate developers to partner with nonprofit developers to build very-low- and low-income affordable housing in the Mission through this program. If you think this is a good idea, sign our petition

It is time for all parties to work together to devise a realistic and achievable Neighborhood Stabilization Plan for the Mission. It could become a powerful roadmap for the neighborhood’s future as a diverse, inclusive place. MEDA’s framework has provided a platform to start the dialogue regarding goals, and the design-build industry’s experience and expertise is also needed to test what’s realistically possible. We don’t need a moratorium to put this plan together, which is why the SFHAC has come out against Prop I. If the plan can’t pass an economic feasibility test, we will just be digging a bigger affordability hole for the Mission.

Image credit: Flickr user KC

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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