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This November, San Francisco Could Get a Little More Affordable

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Credit: Flickr user idleformat

Want to find affordably housing in San Francisco? Good luck. The 47-square-mile peninsula has some of the highest home purchase and rental prices in the country. The median sales price for homes in the city is $702,500, and the average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the city is $1,905. To live comfortably and afford this rent, a person would need to make $76,000 per year, equal to 4.6 full-time minimum wage jobs.

Strict zoning, high density, prohibitive building costs and public opposition make new home construction nearly impossible. Rising salaries from the social media and tech boom in the city only drives the rental market even higher. To top that off, California Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated 400 redevelopment agencies in 2011, a move that he justified by the need for more money to spend on core government functions.

Two citywide ballot measures up for election this November could change the game. Proposition C would create a dedicated trust to fund moderate income and affordable housing. Proposition E provides one major funding source — a business tax overhaul that would provide the program with $28.5 million a year in revenue from business license fees, $12 million of which will be allocated to the trust. Remaining funding will come from hotel taxes and money previously allocated to redevelopment in the city, which can now be repurposed for affordable housing.

Proposition C would restore funding at $20 million per year, increasing annually over 30 years to $51 million. This can fund 4,500 units of affordable housing, establish a $15 million dollar homebuyer assistance program for moderate-income first time homebuyers, and authorize the construction of up to 30,000 low-income rental units. Prop C will also fund housing counseling, foreclosure prevention and home repairs.

More generally, this means that it might become possible for the city’s crucial personnel — firefighters, police officers, nurses, EMTs, teachers, etc. — to live in the communities they serve without haven’t to hold down second or third jobs.

In a city used to bickering over development, there has been surprisingly little opposition to these measures. The only organized opposition group remaining is the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, which notes that the measure is a significant expansion of the city government’s involvement in subsidized housing and extends benefits to residents earning up to 120 percent of the local median income (around $86,000 per year).

*This article has been updated to reflect a clarification regarding the funding sources for affordable housing.

Tags: affordable housingeconomic developmentsan franciscocaliforniajerry brown