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Photo: Darshan Simha/Flickr

San Francisco voters will see a new housing policy on the June 7th ballot, and it’s already dividing housing advocates, developers and the Board of Supervisors.

Proposition C is calling for affordable housing requirements to be removed from the City Charter and placed under the control of the Board of Supervisors. The board would like to see 25 percent of new medium-to-large residential buildings offered as affordable housing, more than double the current 12-percent minimum. Of that amount, 15 percent would be designated for low-income residents and 10 percent would be designated for middle-income earners. The 25-percent cap would not be set in stone, as a feasibility report prepared by the city controller every three years would need to be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors.

Jane Kim, a supervisor for District 6 and a co-author of the legislation, highlighted the importance of affordable housing in a roundtable on KQED’s Forum. “A stat that many San Franciscans don’t know is that 60 percent of San Franciscans qualify for affordable housing,” she said, continuing, “[i]n fact, if you make under $84,550 a year or if your family of four makes only $120,000 a year, you qualify for affordable housing.”

Advocates for Prop C include the city’s Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee. As Kim further explained, “[t]he mayor has fully endorsed the measure before us today, as well as 11 of the Board of Supervisors, and I don’t think the residents need to see a study to know that we are displacing middle class and working class residents. We have to do more, and developers can be a part of that solution.” The policy would give San Francisco the strictest affordable housing regulations in the nation.

However, housing advocates and developers are worried that the high costs associated with building affordable housing may prompt developers to avoid building in San Francisco entirely. One dissenter is Sonja Trauss, founder of the SF Bay Area Renters’ Federation. In the same roundtable she explained, ”[f]uture projects that are unfeasible just will never be proposed and that’s hard on future workers, future residents and potential future developers.”

Developers with projects in the works are covered by Prop C’s “grandfathering clause,” which will grant exceptions for projects that began construction before January 12th. It is said to have appeased many developers who were actively against the new legislation.

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