Families leaving SF: It's housing costs, stupid

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City officials continue to wring their hands over why families are leaving the city, and I'm sure there are a number of factors, but I can tell you that from the people I know -- families who live in the city or want to live in the city -- it's all about the cost of housing.C

Critics of the SFUSD like to say that families are leaving for better schools, but those families haven't been paying attention to the tremendous strides the district has made in recent years. Yes, middle schools are still a challenge in some areas, and yes, not all the public schools are great, but overall, most families that make the effort to find a quality school for their kids can do it.

The folks I know who work in the city hate the idea of living in the burbs. Nobody wants to commute across that bridge or through the BART tunnels every day; more important, nobody wants to be on the other side of the Bay from their house and their kids when the Big Earthquake hits. The problem is the money.

You want to keep families in San Francisco? Building housing for multimillionaires isn't going to do it. If it were up to me, I'd float about a $5 billion revenue bond, buy up all the housing on the private market, put it all in a land trust and resell it -- with the provision that the buyers had every right of ownership except the right to sell for a profit. That's not likely to happen -- but the city has to get serious about both building new affordable housing and (even more important) preserving what's already there.

Yes, a lot of families want to buy a house, but a lot of families would be happy with a decent, affordable place to rent. Particularly if they knew that they wouldn't be evicted so a richer person can buy or rent the place. What most families want is stability -- they want to know where they're going to live not just this year but when their kids are older. So many renters in this town live in such fear of eviction that it's a huge incentive to move somewhere else.

You can talk about parks and playgrounds and youth programs, but San Francisco's never going to be as family-friendly as we'd all like unless we can do something about housing costs and rental stability.