San Francisco

SF Housing Bond Aims to Make City More Affordable

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has been hitting the campaign trail in recent weeks to promote Proposition A, a $310 million bond measure on the city’s ballot this year. 

Mayor Lee has pushed the proposition as a critical piece of a longer-term solution to build and rehabilitate thousands of homes for low and middle income people in the city.

According to San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, the city has never had a greater need for new housing solutions.

“It’s always bad here, but it’s as bad or worse than I’ve ever seen it,” he said.

But how big a dent could a $310 million bond measure actually make?

In the last decade, San Francisco has created or preserved 8,000 units of multi-family affordable housing at a cost of about $155,000 per unit, according to data from the Mayor’s Office on Housing and Community Development.

Using those metrics as a blueprint for how far the bond money could stretch, the city could end up with as many as 2,000 units, new and rehabilitated, if Prop A is approved by voters.

Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign office declined NBC Bay Area’s request for an interview, but Scott Wiener says the 2,000 new and rehabilitated units provided by the proposition are certainly a step in the right direction.

The longtime advocate of affordable housing lauds the mayor’s two-pronged approach laid out in Prop A.

“Way too much of the public housing stock is dilapidated, is in just terrible, sometimes unliveable conditions,” he said. “So it is incumbent on us to rehabilitate and shore up that existing public housing stock, in addition to building new units.”

The proposition grants permission for the city to borrow up the $310 million in bonds, but it doesn’t specify exactly how that money will be spent.

It also creates a blueprint for building new affordable units, fixing dilapidated ones and helping first-time homebuyers, but it doesn’t guarantee a certain number of units must be built or preserved.

The proposition requires a two-thirds majority vote. Despite two recent attempts, a housing bond has not been passed by San Francisco voters since 1996.

In a television commercial promoting Prop A, Mayor Lee says the measure will not raise taxes.

That’s not entirely true. The proposition would still tax homeowners. Those property taxes would average out to about $80 per million dollars of property owned according to the city’s Office of the Controller.

However, the new housing bond would technically replace old bonds set to expire, so the property tax rate would carry over. If the bond doesn’t pass and the other older bonds expire, residents would actually see property taxes go down.

NBC Bay Area spoke to numerous individuals in city government and the nonprofit sector and found very few vocal opponents to Proposition A.

On the streets of the Mission District, perhaps one of the city’s most strongly affected real estate markets, a chorus of passersby sang their frustrations over the city’s current housing climate.

“We should be able to afford it,” said Anna Lanuza, a mother of three who moved out of the city five years ago. “My sons should be able to live here. They were born here in San Francisco. It’s not fair.”

“Finding any kind of housing has been impossible. People just don’t even answer you,” added Shelby Rosabal, a recent transplant to the city.

“It’s not easy, and it’s not guaranteed,” said John Barham, a Mission resident and band manager. “For the most part, if I pulled up a Craigslist [ad] or talked to a realtor, there’d be no way I could find and afford the rent that every place is asking.”

Though incensed by the current circumstances, many were also hard pressed to lose hope that a solution could be found.

“I want to see us build as much housing as we can for people just like me who are middle income and work very hard,” said city resident Eileen Shields.

Bay Area mom of three Anna Lanuza agrees. That’s why she’s in favor of Prop A.

“Let’s hope, fingers crossed, that it’ll pass to help all this,” she said. “Not only for me but my kids, for the future, that they are able to afford it.”

Contact Us