Is the city the author of its own misfortune? An influx of young professionals and tech companies spurning the suburbs for San Francisco city life have dramatically escalated housing demand. Concurrently, the city is constrained by a tight housing supply catalyzed by slow construction approval processes, strict height limits, density laws, rent control, and BMR programs. Throw in some anti-growth sentiment, a dash of greed, and allow natural economic laws of supply and demand to kick in and voilà – a blooming “housing crisis”. But a crisis for who? Surely not for those living in Below Market Rate (BMR) housing or pre-1979 rent controlled buildings with locked in low rents or no threat of eviction.
To combat the crisis, some city officials want to expand the city’s Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program – aka “affordable” housing. The program currently requires real estate developers to include a percentage (12% on-site or 20% off-site) of BMR units in new residential construction. Momentum is building to double these rates. But is such a BMR expansion the optimal solution for combating high rents?
Affordable housing proponents contend new market rate homes are priced for the rich and drive out long-term residents – an example being the Mission’s shrinking Latino community. To stymie the exodus, they favor adding more BMR units that can house these vulnerable residents. Opponents argue that the BMR program suffers from a long and inefficient lottery system, limited resell equity gains (for condos), and eviction for income disqualification. Instead of more BMR’s they want taller buildings with higher number of homes that can better satisfy demand, offset development costs and city fees, and subsequently encourage cheaper home prices. But is constructing scores of skyscrapers that shade parks, block views, and disrupt the city’s manicured skyline a viable and acceptable solution?
Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin will be bringing the affordability issue to the spotlight this November with a ballot measure that intends to increase new BMR housing requirements (25% onsite or 33% offsite) and raise the amount of in lieu fees. So we ask you, the reader …