Prop C: A tool to help solve our housing crisis

San Francisco Chronicle, by Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin, May 22, 2016

Every week, it seems like another luxury condo or apartment project is breaking ground somewhere in our increasingly gridlocked city. Yet amid this development Gold Rush, thousands of our friends and fellow San Franciscans are being forced out by soaring housing costs. While the debate rages about the reasons for this housing crisis and who is to blame, at least one solution is right in front of us.

It’s called “inclusionary housing.” Though the term lacks zing, inclusionary housing is a powerful tool to ensure that developers, who are generating billions of dollars in profits, contribute to creating affordable housing. This June, voters can do something to strengthen this tool: Pass Proposition C.

Inclusionary housing policy has been adding affordable units to the market in San Francisco since 2002 when then-Supervisor Mark Leno championed the first measure. Nearly 2,000 “below market rate” housing units now exist, some rentals and some first-time ownership units. We’ve met seniors, young people and working families — some once-homeless — who are enjoying stable lives, thanks to San Francisco’s inclusionary housing program.

Prop. C, the affordable housing Charter amendment, more than doubles the rate of affordable housing required in projects of 25 or more units, from the current 12 percent to a new requirement of 25 percent, and encourages the creation of diverse, mixed-income neighborhoods that make San Francisco unique. It is an unprecedented proposal, showing once again that this city is a national model of forward-thinking ideas for affordable housing.

Significantly, and for the first time, inclusionary housing will also include middle-income residents, at least 10 percent of units in all. That means that San Franciscans such as teachers and nurses can afford to live in the communities they serve. Our inclusionary policy will include both low-income and middle-income San Franciscans, a productive alternative to the divisive policies of some “housing advocates” that pit San Franciscans against each other.

Finally, Prop. C takes the inclusionary housing policy out of the City Charter where it is stuck, unchangeable without voter approval and at a low 12 percent rate, and returns to our elected leaders the ability to adjust the rate to changing market conditions. This change means flexibility — we won’t have to live with an inclusionary housing rate that is too high or too low, and we can always ensure the maximum amount of affordable housing is required of market rate developers.

Inclusionary housing is not the only answer; affordable housing is a complex problem that requires a thoughtful, comprehensive approach. But it is one critically important way for us to help keep San Francisco affordable for all.

We urge you to be part of this historic step forward and vote for Prop. C on June 7.

Supervisor Jane Kim, the sponsor of Proposition C, represents a district absorbing the majority of the city’s new development. Co-author Supervisor Aaron Peskin was elected to a third term after running on a platform to raise the city’s inclusionary housing requirements.