Veterans Deserve Support
We need to support our veterans, and protect, preserve and expand our middle class.
In November, we recognized Veterans Day and Month with a legislative package to honor and pay respect to our veterans’ community by expanding access to affordable housing and waiving fees at certain park facilities.
There are approximately 24,000 veterans in our city, all of whom have made significant personal and professional sacrifices to serve our community, city, state and country. Our public programs should reflect and honor those sacrifices.
Veterans face many challenges when they come home and begin their reintegration back into our community, including housing, and too many veterans have slipped into poverty and are at risk of homelessness when affordable housing isn’t available.
The 2019 point-in-time count identified 600 chronically homeless veterans in San Francisco, amounting to 9% of the total count. Of those, 84% were people of color. In a 2017 study by the University of Southern California on San Francisco veterans, more than 40% of post-9/11 veterans in the City reported being homeless in the previous year, and 40% of post-9/11 veterans in the City reported concerns about having housing in the next two months.
We have to do better for our veterans’ community. I’ve introduced legislation that would create a new affordable housing priority for veterans who qualify for existing affordable housing preferences. If passed, this legislation will support low-income veterans transitioning into stable housing and economic self-sufficiency and mitigate the risk of homelessness faced by many veterans in San Francisco.
I also introduced a second ordinance to demonstrate our City’s appreciation for veterans and support their mental and physical wellness by providing free admission or discounts to certain parks and recreational facilities, including free admission to the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, swimming pools and the Botanical Garden. The National Park system already offers free admission to many parks for veterans, with benefits for their mental and physical health, and it’s time our City follows suit.
And veterans aren’t the only San Franciscans feeling our affordability crisis, which is why I’m continuing to work to expand affordable housing opportunities for all. Last month I introduced the Housing Development Incentives Program for Homeowners, a package of legislation to incentivize small-scale development in residential neighborhoods and new housing that will be affordable and suitable for moderate-income families.
It goes without saying that we are in a housing affordability crisis. I recently held a hearing on Housing our Workers, which highlighted a new report that showed only 7% of union workers could afford market-rate rents in San Francisco and more than 40% commute from outside San Francisco.
While we’ve overbuilt high-rise luxury housing, the housing industry has not been building for our workforce. In neighborhoods with a large number of single-family homes, like the Sunset, building traditional 100% affordable housing is often prohibitive due to high land costs and small lots. Not only are too few affordable housing units being built, but we are losing too many protected, rent-controlled units, which is our main housing stability tool outside of the City’s affordable housing portfolio. District 4, for example, has consistently had the worst housing balance in the annual housing balance report due to a lack of affordable housing investments and high rate of protected units removed from the market.
We need new, innovative tools to build more housing to meet our affordable housing needs, including creative ideas for our built-out, single-family home neighborhoods. We know that the unregulated market, driven by profit and speculation, will never build enough workforce housing. We also know that traditional, state-financed affordable housing is not designed for moderate-income housing or small lots. That’s why I am proposing a new strategy to stabilize, protect and grow our middle class.
The Housing Development Incentives Program for Homeowners proposes two things: 1) allow more affordable family housing in residential, or RH, neighborhoods, and; 2) provide assistance for homeowners to build.
First, I am proposing an ordinance to provide a citywide density bonus for new affordable housing. In addition to the market rate units currently allowed, homeowners would have a new opportunity to build additional “bonus” units, as long as these bonus units have at least two bedrooms. If they choose to rent them, the “bonus” units must be rented at a rent affordable to or sold as owner units for a 100% AMI (Area Median Income) household.
Second, I am proposing a companion resolution to create a Technical and Financial Assistance Program for Homeowners to build affordable family housing. The program would include technical assistance to see homeowners through pre-construction, construction and property management, including streamlined permitting through pre-approved plans. It would also include financial assistance for homeowners, prioritizing low- and moderate-income households at risk of displacement, and homeowners willing to rent to lower-income tenants.
We need to view housing policy with a framework of affordability, stability and racial equity. The Sunset has historically been an example of how a community can prosper when housing is stable and affordable. Given the extreme run-up in housing costs in the Sunset and other single-family neighborhoods, the status quo isn’t working, and working- and middle-class families and people of color have been increasingly pushed out.
Our Housing Development Incentives Program, which is centered on homeowners, aims to protect and build homes to meet our urgent unmet housing needs for moderate-income families to stabilize our neighborhoods. It allows and promotes new affordable family housing in residential neighborhoods and provides public resources to make it happen.
As we move forward with a healthy and robust discussion on how we can best meet our affordable housing needs, my hope is that we begin with the right framework – one of affordability, stability and racial equity. We need a framework to protect, preserve and grow the middle class, the true marker of a prospering city.
Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or email@example.com.
Categories: City Hall