Compromise measures - Page 5

Housing and business tax propositions don't solve the city's problems, but both sides say they're the best we can expect

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A pair of fall ballot measures would spur affordable housing development in San Francisco.
PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN/SF NEWSPAPER CO.

At its root, the measure shifts some of the burden of funding affordable housing from developers to a broader tax base and locks in that agreement for 30 years, which could also spur market rate housing development in the process.

A late addition to the proposal by Farrell would create funding to help emergency workers with household earnings up to 150 percent of average median income buy homes in the city, citing a need to have these workers close at hand in the event of an earthquake or other emergency.

While some progressives have grumbled about the givebacks to developers and the high percentage of money going to homebuyer assistance in a city where almost two-thirds of residents rent, affordable housing advocates are pleased with the proposal.

"Did we gain out of this local package? Yes, we got 30 years of local funding. We came out net ahead in an environment where cities are crashing. We essentially caught ourselves way early from the end of redevelopment funds," said Peter Cohen, executive director of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations.

Without it, Cohen says many affordable housing projects in the existing pipeline would be lost. "This last year was a bumpy year, and we will not be back to the same operation level for a number of years," Cohen said. "There was a dip and we are coming out of that dip. It will take us a while to get back up to speed."

The progressive side was also able to eliminate some of the more controversial items in the original proposal, including provisions that would expand the number of annual condo conversions allowed by the city and encourage rental properties to be converted into tenancies-in-common.

With ballot measures notoriously hard to amend, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund measure is a broad outline with many of the details of how the fund would be administered yet to be filled in. If passed, it will be up to Olson Lee, head of the Mayors Office on Housing and former local head of the demised redevelopment agency, to fill in the details, folding what was essential two partnered affordable housing agencies into a single local unit.

But even the most progressive members of the affordable housing community said there was no other alternative to addressing affordable housing in the wings — which is indeed a crisis now that redevelopment funds are gone — making this measure essential.

As Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco told the Rules Committee, "We lost a very important funding mechanism. We have to replace it. We have no choice."