Renewed debates about housing policy will shape what kind of city San Francisco becomes
"This has come up almost every single year for years and years about this time," said Peter Cohen, organizer with the Council of Community Housing Organizations.
This year, however, proponents are not simply reiterating a request to bypass the condo conversion lottery. Plan C, a coalition of San Francisco moderates, is pushing for adding a fee to condo conversion, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, which would go towards an affordable housing fund.
Mayor Lee said that he is open to considering a change in condo conversion policy, "providing it balances our need for revenue for affordable housing, the value that responsible homeownership brings to the city, and the rights of tenants who could be affected by a change in policy."
WHOSE TRUST FUND?
This comes at a time when the city is facing a loss of millions per year for affordable housing with the dissolution of the redevelopment agency (see "Transfer of power, Jan. 31).
That dissolution led to Mayor Lee's plan for an affordable housing trust fund, to be voted on as a ballot measure this November. The kick-off for that plan also began recently, with a press conference and big-tent meeting to discuss what it might look like.
On the day after the Land Use Committee meeting, where he started the conversation on "middle class" housing, Wiener posed a question to Lee at a Board of Supervisors meeting, asking how the mayor plans to "ensure that the housing trust fund that comes out of the process you have convened will meaningfully address the need for moderate/middle income housing."
Some are concerned that too much of the trust fund could be allocated outside low-income demographics. "There's a limited size pie of resources," Cohen said. "Just in a matter of the last months, we lost the redevelopment agency. The city is madly scrambling to try to replace that through housing trust fund, and working to get us back to somewhere close to where we were...Is that pie, that has dramatically shrunk, going to be stretched further for another income band?"
That question will be important when the proposal goes to vote in November. According to Donaldson, many low-income homeowners will not vote for the measure unless it addresses their needs. The specifics of the measure calling for the trust fund are still being worked out. But, it will likely be funded by an increase of the transfer tax paid when homes change ownership.
Yet that proposal was the subject of an unusual political broadside from the San Francisco Association of Realtors, which last week sent out election-style mailers attacking the idea. "Brace yourself for an unexpected visit from the city's tax collector," the mailer warns, showing the hand of government bursting through the wall of a home, urging people to contact Lee's office.
The measure may also see opposition from low-income communities, especially if, as Wiener has urged in the past week, it allocates a chunk of funds towards middle-income housing.