Solving the Housing Crisis
One year ago, my Richmond Review column focused on the housing affordability crisis and the housing we need to build to prevent displacement of our most vulnerable residents. Since last November’s column, the affordability crisis in San Francisco has only deepened. Inflation, a looming recession and staff shortages have caused many of us to budget a little tighter and save for any unforeseen expenses.
With the cost of living increasing month after month, it’s hard to see relief in sight. And for many San Franciscans who rent or even own their homes, the possibility of falling behind on a monthly rent or mortgage payment means they could lose their housing.
Year after year, affordable housing is top of mind for San Franciscans. It’s clear the City needs to build more affordable housing to meet the needs of working San Franciscans. However, housing issues stretch beyond just building new units – there’s no single solution that can fix our housing crisis. We need to use every tool in our toolbox to make sure San Francisco can be a more affordable city while also meeting our obligation to build more housing. What good is building tens of thousands of new units if they are unaffordable to San Franciscans? We must sustain our communities by building more affordable housing to ensure residents can continue to afford to stay in the City and to prevent displacement.
What these principles look like in practice means reforming policies we have in place, including rent control, below market-rate housing rental, affordable housing home ownership assistance and small sites acquisition. We also need to identify creative solutions that will improve infrastructure and boost the local economy, so we can provide a healthy economic ecosystem for working people to live and thrive in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, we know that rent control and eviction protection for tenants are two critical housing stabilization policies we can enact to help tenants stay in their homes and prevent them from living on our streets. While California and San Francisco enacted strong eviction protections to prevent tenants from losing their homes during the pandemic, unfortunately throughout the state we are beginning to see a wave of evictions happening. We can and we must explore policies to strengthen these protections locally.
We must also reform our below-market-rate housing program. Seniors have been on waitlists for affordable housing for decades – some have passed away before they could be awarded affordable housing units, and some can’t even afford the monthly rent. San Francisco needs to increase the production of 100% affordable housing for our seniors and explore opportunities to further subsidize rent for those on a fixed income.
Lastly, we need to ensure our City’s planning for housing – also known as the Housing Element – prioritizes building affordable housing in areas to provide both low-income and middle-income residents with increased access to housing that they can actually afford. The Housing Element is due to meet the state’s housing production mandate in January 2023 with a grace period until May, requiring San Francisco to present a plan to produce a total of 82,000 housing units, out of which, more than 46,000 units are to be affordable housing.
San Francisco has already failed to meet its affordable housing goals since the last Housing Element, building less than half of the affordable housing it required. So, to ensure we can meet the mandates, the City must prioritize building housing that San Franciscans can afford. This is why simply changing the definition of affordable housing, instead of building affordable housing that our working people can afford, not only does not help us meet the mandates, it also does not solve the housing affordability crisis. Our City cannot afford to have more empty market-rate housing units benefiting speculative investments and corporate rentals.
San Francisco’s economy cannot fully recover when we have people being priced out, people suffering on the streets and continuing the increase of empty housing units. So, no matter the outcome of the housing measures this November, my team and I are committed to rolling up our sleeves and working with stakeholders to make sure San Francisco can continue to be a home for immigrants, working families and refugees.
Connie Chan represents District 1 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She can be reached at 415-554-7410 or email@example.com.
Categories: City Hall