Meeting affordable housing quotas has proven to be a struggle across the nation, especially as the already intense and quick-paced housing market is only becoming more and more competitive for buyers. Many cities have already declared their housing shortage to be at a ‘crisis’ level, while others are slowly progressing to that point.
Unfortunately, San Francisco is no exception, as the city still seems to be struggling with expansion. However, that issue seemed to be remedied late last month upon the passage of The Affordable Housing Bonus Program — also known as “Home SF” — which passed through the Board of Supervisors with a 10-1 vote.
However, it is important to note that this bill only incentivizes developers who choose to build affordable housing units, rather than making it mandatory that affordable housing units be built to accommodate the lower-income population. Many opinion leaders see this bill as a slight to the diverse population of San Francisco and have not hesitated to make their opinions known over the years.
In spite of these obstacles and accusations of injustice, lawmakers continued their negotiations, with some pushing for upwards of 25 percent of new housing to be deemed affordable and others looking to keep the percentage low — around 14 percent. The aforementioned bill settled on 18 percent for most neighborhoods — especially those at risk of gentrification.
All in all, this program will lead to approximately 5,000 new affordable housing units being built within 20 years. It is also estimated that anywhere between 800 and 2,000 of those units will become available within the next several years, with unit prices ranging from 90 and 140 percent of the city’s median income for condos and 55 to 110 percent for apartments.
While this was certainly a good step in the right direction, any real estate expert will tell you that it simply is not enough. After all, the demand for housing in the San Francisco area is only rising, especially amongst working- and middle-class families.
However, these needs are not being met because developers in the area have become greedy, opting to build more million-dollar homes than the more desired — and absolutely necessary — affordable units.
Seeing as San Francisco is a primarily rent-controlled city, these acts have only perpetuated the great divide between socioeconomic groups, forcing many residents out of their homes and even the surrounding area — in spite of the roughly 30,000 empty units scattered throughout the city.
Although the future seems unclear for many San Franciscans, one can only hope real progress is being made and that this age-old fight for new, affordable housing units will soon be a part of the past.