Supervisors Support Strengthening Affordable Housing Law

by Rita Mandelenis and Randy Shaw on May 11, 2006

A strong turnout from family housing advocates brought a receptive response from the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee meeting yesterday regarding amendments to strengthen the city’s Inclusionary Affordable Housing program. The ordinance, authored by Supervisor Chris Daly, sparked further amendments from Supervisors McGoldrick, Mirkarimi, and Maxwell. Because the Planning Department study on the impact of the proposed changes will not be completed until July, the Committee continued the hearing. But it is already clear what developers are doing to circumvent the proposed new law.

Tracy Parent, a homeownership counselor from the Mission Economic Development Agency, has seen first-hand how difficult it is for residents to get into affordable housing units.

“With the current median income, some will be spending 45 percent of their income on housing,” said Parent. “Preferences should be given to those who work in San Francisco.”

In order to apply for affordable housing, one does not have to presently live in the city. This is to encourage families who have left the city to come back. Parent is hopeful of the new legislation.

“This is just one piece to a very big puzzle,” said Parent.

Sarah Short of the Housing Rights Committee sad that we as a society are dealing with a much larger issue. Section 8 has been cut drastically in recent months, forcing families to pay more for rent.

“There may not be federal money to fix this problem,” said Short. “The people who are affected will become homeless or move.”

She also wanted others to be aware that 70 percent of those affected are people of color. And, that the city needs to pay close attention to the concentration of poverty within these communities.

Anne Connery, a Grandmother raising her two grandchildren, says that more housing is a necessity. Through her experience many grandmothers are raising children, but Child Protective Services requires separate rooms. Therefore, many need assistance to provide that extra room, and many turn to housing projects.

“These projects are poorly managed and are a breeding ground for drug dealers,” said Connery. “Something needs to be done because these are the people we are going to have to live with tomorrow.”

Julie Leadbetter of the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center pointed out that developers should be more than willing to meet the new requirements. In her own neighborhood in the Mission a nine-unit building has been proposed.

“We know that they not invested in our neighborhood,” said Leadbetter of the proposal. “This could be good for developers because we will be more likely to welcome them to the community, even when we know that we’re not going to be able to access the housing.”

Attorneys for developers put forth their own strategy for dealing with the proposed tougher requirements. Longtime developer attorneys Bob McCarthy and Steve Vettel both told the committee that they had no real problem with the proposals so long as existing projects were exempted.

Both appeared to define “existing project” as any project where the land was purchased prior to the effective date of the new inclusionary law. If this were to be approved by the Board, it would pretty much guarantee that the stronger inclusionary rules applied to few if any projects prior to at least 2010.

Although McCarthy and Vettel argued that it is unfair to change the terms of the law once a project is conceived, rent control and zoning laws both impact existing property owners. There is no basis for dealing differently with the inclusionary law.

So the real debate in January is likely to be over what it means to have a project “in the pipeline” so that it is exempted from the new law. Given the projected slowdown in new market rate housing construction, the extent to which projects are grandfathered in under the old law will determine whether the new, tougher regulations will make a meaningful difference.

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