May 3, 2022 Housing Action Coalition

San Francisco’s Essential Workers Needs Affordable Homes Now

For a city’s essential workers, housing is essential. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “essential worker” became a commonly used phrase. As cities across the world shut down and people began sheltering in place, there was a recognition that despite the health risks, certain professions—teachers, nurses, Muni drivers, and firefighters among them—were too integral to the functioning of a city and an economy to stop working in person. Now in Year 3 of the pandemic, and as more industries have returned to in-person work, the essentialness of these professions hasn’t changed.

Given the importance of professionals like teachers and nurses, wouldn’t it make sense for a city to provide them with plenty of affordable housing options close to where they work? At HAC we think so. However, in San Francisco – a city with a notorious record for failing to build enough housing, residents like teachers and nurses are too often priced out and pushed out of the city. 

To help alleviate this problem, San Francisco must start building vastly more affordable housing at a far more rapid pace. Public school teachers shouldn’t have to commute over an hour to get to their jobs. If we value the professions that we deemed “essential,” we should provide them with housing they can afford, in a convenient location—and we need to do it now. 

That’s why HAC, along with a broad coalition of pro-housing supporters including GrowSF, Habitat for Humanity, Nor Cal Carpenters Union, Greenbelt Alliance, SPUR, and YIMBY Action are partnering on the Affordable Homes Now ballot measure campaign. Affordable Homes Now will streamline the permitting and approval process so that it becomes faster and easier to build low and middle-income housing. 

As a city known for its modernity, San Francisco has one of the slowest and most outdated permitting processes in the country. It can take four to seven years for a home builder to get their project approved. These delays exacerbate San Francisco’s already-severe housing shortage, which in turn amplifies the affordability and displacement issues the city already grapples with today.

For too long, the middle and lower-income workers who are the backbone of this city have unfairly borne the weight of these costs. Affordable Homes Now addresses this issue, however, by making it possible to shorten the home building permit approval process from four years to six – twelve months. This in turn will lessen the bureaucracy of development, accelerate the homebuilding process, and most importantly help more San Franciscans find an affordable place to call home. 

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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