Examiner Endorsement: Yes on C

"We need to do more, faster. This measure will be a needed engine for that goal."  Endorsement: Yes on C

Proposition C: Affordable Housing Requirements, Charter Amendment|
May 19, 2016

Proposition C would return power from voters to the Board of Supervisors to change the number of affordable homes — known as inclusionary housing — mandated in residential projects of certain sizes.

While San Francisco has built 4,300 below-market-rate homes in the past decade, it has also lost 3,200 of such homes in the same period. Meanwhile, the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment has surpassed $3,500. We need to do more, faster. This measure will be an needed engine for that goal.

Currently, projects with at least 10 homes are required to offer 12 percent of those homes at below market-rate. Developers may also pay a fee or build 20 percent of the homes as affordable off-site.

The passage of Prop. C would enable trailing legislation, introduced by supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin, to require projects with at least 25 homes to include 25 percent of those units as below market-rate, including 15 percent for low-income residents and 10 percent for middle-income residents.

That middle-income bracket would apply to those who work as nurses or teachers, offering that group of a residents a dedicated source of housing in San Francisco for the first time. The City sorely needs to find creative ways to keep these workers living here. This is a good step in that direction.

The legislation also requires the City Controller to issue by July 31 a feasibility study of affordable housing requirements, as well as follow-up studies, which could impact when and if the board adjusts the 25 percent inclusionary housing rate.

Some have opposed the measure on the grounds that it would kill development in The City, that giving so much of new buildings over to lower-income residents would leave no incentive to build. We are confident that developers will find ways to continue to profit by building in San Francisco under Prop. C. Voters are justified demanding a more inclusive and broader residential market.

The Housing Action Coalition, which supports increased affordable housing, has taken a neutral position on the measure, claiming the mandate to make a quarter of new homes below market-rate was not a result of any study that called for such a rate, and the percentage needed may be different.

We understand the objection, and even Kim and Peskin have acknowledged the percentage may need to be tweaked, but the fact remains that The City is in desperate need of housing for low- and moderate-income families, and this measure helps move us in the right direction. The current level of 12 percent for larger developments is woefully inadequate.

Endorsement: Yes on C