The town. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
The deadline for San Francisco to complete its housing expansion plan over the next eight years is fast approaching, but local politicians are already wondering if the state-mandated goals are realistic.
Driving the news: Last week, the board of directors met to discuss the city’s housing element, which must show California regulators how San Francisco intends to build 82,000 housing units — 46,000 of which must be affordable.
Why it matters: Without a plan approved by January 31, 2023, San Francisco risks losing federal subsidies for affordable housing and more, and losing local control over zoning laws. This means developers would theoretically be able to build any type of residential building they like, as long as it meets safety, environmental and affordability standards.
- However, compliance with the plan could provide a massive boost to the city’s housing production, which averaged 3,500 new units per year between 2010 and 2020.
- Pro-growth camps say more inventory will bring relief to home buyers and renters in one of the country’s most expensive markets.
Yes but: How will the city raise the money to meet the state’s affordable housing goal, regulators asked during last week’s hearing.
What you say: “What you have here is a state government that… doesn’t spend its money where its mouth is,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told Axios. “If you tell us what to do, send us a check to help us do it.”
Using the numbers: Today, the city funds about 40% of the cost of building new affordable housing, with 60% coming from other sources, including government grants, Anne Stanley, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office for housing and community development, told Axios.
- As Stanley put it, “The production of new affordable housing depends on government funding; San Francisco cannot produce the required amount of housing without significant government investment.”
Reality check: For the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year, Stanley said her department (the city’s primary source of funding for 100% affordable housing projects) has budgeted $649 million for affordable housing and development. An additional estimated $1.3 billion would be required to meet the state’s goal for the year.
The other side: Sacramento lawmakers, including Senator Scott Wiener, have criticized the regulators’ response.
- “Would I like to see the state put more money into affordable housing? Of course,” Wiener told Axios. “But the idea that the state is responsible for all of San Francisco’s housing problems is just ridiculous.”
- Wiener said the board should maintain the zoning changes set out in the housing element, which would add density to the west side of the city in particular. He also stressed the need to streamline permitting processes, which he says are “the worst in the state … in terms of time, complexity and political interference.”
at its end, Wiener says he’s working on some bills over the next year that he hopes will help, including a measure that would allow religious institutions to build 100% affordable housing on their land.
What’s next: The planning commission will work to secure state approval for the residential element in December before approaching the board of directors for official adoption by the end of January.
- And then, as Wiener said, “You do your best to build as much as possible.”