“Unpacking the ‘Affordable Housing Balance’ at the Neighborhood Level”

SF Examiner, July 19, 2015

The first “Housing Balance Report” from the Planning Department is fresh off the presses!  This report, the realization of many months of patient advocacy from a broad set of stakeholders and the fulfillment of one of the mandates of last year’s Proposition K, shows how far out of whack housing production has been in San Francisco.

The numbers here are eye-popping. The current citywide affordable housing balance for the past 10 years up to present is 16 percent (meaning only 16 percent of all net housing supply over the past 10 years was affordable housing). And the future looks even worse. Based on the entitlement “pipeline” of projects, The City is slated to produce only 11 percent affordable housing moving forward. We are far behind the goal of minimum 33 percent affordable housing for low- and moderate-income San Franciscans set by Prop K, and, unfortunately, only getting worse.

The dismal citywide numbers should be a wake-up call for everyone. But where the disparity in production becomes painfully apparent is in the neighborhood-level numbers. This report reveals how geographically uneven the production of affordable housing is across The City’s neighborhoods: District 6 (SoMa), District 10 (Bayview) and District 5 (Hayes Valley) received three quarters of all affordable-housing production in the last 10 years. District 2 (Marina) and District 4 (Sunset) only produced 37 and 15 affordable housing units, respectively.

Even more shocking and clearly visible in the district-level “balance” numbers is the degree to which the loss of rental housing from conversions and evictions has completely undermined even the best efforts by The City to produce affordable housing. It’s like we’re running in place: we are losing almost as many rent-protected units from real estate speculation as are gained from new development.

Take a district like the Castro, which has the highest displacement numbers and lost 844 rent-controlled units to evictions and conversions over the last 10 years. As a result, the housing balance in that district is negative — The City has lost more affordable rental units in District 8 than it has produced! 

The Housing Balance Report shows many supervisorial districts with the highest levels of displacement have negative housing balances from 2005-2014, including District 1 (535 units lost, with a -32 percent affordable housing balance), District 2 (491 units lost, -70 percent balance), and District 8 (844 units lost, -12 percent balance). District 9 (Mission/Bernal Heights) has the second highest displacement with 688 units lost over the last 10 years, and has a whopping affordable housing balance of 3.4 percent. Is the outcry on the streets any wonder?

The Council of Community Housing Organizations has been doing its own research to drill even deeper, and this week we will be releasing a series of “Snapshots” on housing trends within each of The City’s supervisorial districts over the past year.

Without even counting units lost due to displacement, our research shows the same continuing uneven distribution of affordable housing production: District 10 (Bayview) was the only part of The City that met a minimum 33 percent affordable housing balance in 2014.

District 6, District 8 (Castro) and District 10 were the only districts to receive any low-income housing completions at all, and a significant chunk of that was in the “big three” redevelopment areas of Transbay, Mission Bay and Hunters Point Shipyard.

Moderate-income housing was more evenly produced across the Marina, Chinatown, North Beach, Western Addition, the Mission and Bernal Heights. But if you take overall affordable-housing production in Districts 6 and 10 out of the calculation, the rest of the entire city only produced 83 affordable units (or 8 percent of the total) for low- and moderate-income San Franciscans.

Although all supervisorial districts lost rent-controlled units in 2014, most of them are not producing any affordable housing.

Now that we have the data that shows the true “balance” between market-rate and affordable housing, we need to use it to work toward real solutions.

Clearly, there is a need to increase affordable housing production dramatically and immediately, if even Prop K’s minimum 33 percent housing balance is to be achieved over the coming years. That means securing more sites for affordable housing and securing more funding for both development of new housing and acquisition and preservation of existing affordable housing. The Housing Balance Report also clearly shows the displacement crisis and resulting loss of rental units needs to be confronted if The City wants to make any real progress on affordable housing production goals.

Fortunately, measures addressing
all of these needs will be on the ballot
or in the legislative process for 2015.

The Surplus Public Lands ballot measure will ensure affordable housing is a priority use for publically owned sites put up for “disposition” by agencies.

The Affordable Housing Bond ballot measure will provide additional funding for low- and moderate-income housing production and a new middle-income homeownership purchase program.

The Housing Stabilization Trust legislation will establish a comprehensive housing acquisition and rehabilitation program and will focus particularly on neighborhoods with high rates of evictions.

The Just Cause 2.0 legislation will strengthen protections for tenants facing unscrupulous and opportunistic eviction threats.

The Short Term Rentals measure will ensure strong enforcement of The City’s regulations on vacation rentals to protect our rental housing from hotelization.

The CCHO has long advocated for a minimum housing balance, not just at the lumpy citywide scale but at the neighborhood level — what residents know to be the real “communities” of San Francisco. This new report from the Planning Department and our own Housing Snapshots research makes clear that we have a lot of work to do to correct the course ahead.

Peter Cohen and Fernando Martí are co-directors of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.