Speaking of the Mayor and housing, the findings and recommendations from a working group of “over 100 housing activists, advocates and experts,” which the Mayor assembled to address the state of affordable housing in San Francisco and aid the Mayor in achieving his goal of adding 10,000 units of affordable housing in the city by 2020, have just been published.

The group’s five recommendations and associated strategies for preserving San Francisco’s existing stock of affordable housing, increasing low-income and workforce housing production, and supporting the rehabilitation of the City’s dilapidated public housing sites:

  1. Preserve affordability in the city’s neighborhoods
    • Create a scaled-up Affordable Housing Preservation/Neighborhood Stabilization Program
    • Encourage new development to preserve buildings with tenants at risk of displacement
    • Maintain commitments to rebuild public housing
  2. Direct more funding for the construction of affordable housing
    • Increase public revenue dedicated to affordable housing by way of General Obligation Bonds and Tax Increment financing
    • Launch a Housing Affordability Fund, via a public private partnership
  3. Enable a wider band of households to benefit from affordable housing
    • Allow developers to “Dial Up” their inclusionary requirements
    • Pilot a series of experimental Mixed Income Projects
    • Expand the reach of Down Payment Assistance Loan (DALP) Programs
  4. Achieve greater affordability in new developments
    • Create a locally supported Density Bonus Program
    • Use publicly owned sites for affordable and mixed income housing
    • Encourage private developers to provide sites for affordable housing, and help fund their construction
    • Set high targets for affordability with any rezoning
  5. Look for efficiencies in the city’s permitting and approval systems
    • Make better use of the time a project spends awaiting planner assignment & building review
    • Reduce redundancies in the development approval process, while still ensuring significant input and deliberate review
    • Provide real-time approval information to developers and neighbors

The full presentation with the background and detail for the recommendations above, which the Mayor sees as a roadmap for the city moving forward:

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Hitman

    Here is the Hitman’s Housing Work Group 2014:

    Findings: Rent Control is a 30+ year failure that has caused rents to go out-of-control because there are no incentives for landlords to stay in business.

    Recommendations: Abolish rent control and if that does not happen, Ellis them all!

  2. Posted by Spencer

    “Increase public revenue dedicated to affordable housing by way of General Obligation Bonds and Tax Increment financing”

    Please do not spend more tax payers dollars building housing projects

  3. Posted by Futurist

    Here’s a thought. Let’s just do what all the communists running our city REALLY want to do:
    1. Raise a ginormous tax on all the single family homeowners and car owners. Make them pay.
    2. Build vast amounts of FREE public housing in nice 40 story tall towers all over SF.
    3. Allow anyone with any income to move into this housing for the people.

    Housing crisis solved.

    • Posted by eddy

      The lower east side and west sides of NYC have these tall tower projects. Didn’t really work out all that great.

      I have mixed feeling about government mandated low income housing. It’s a complicated problem with no easy solution. Not sure more regulations and incentives are the fix, but don’t have anything more useful to add other than I think its more likely this gets more bungled than “solved”. Is it even “solvable” for that matter?

  4. Posted by SFRealist

    This report is why I’m so skeptical of our thousands of city employees. They’re really good at making powerpoint presentations. I wish they would focus more on running the city.

  5. Posted by katdip

    What a crock of motherhood and apple pie. Unlike the earlier commenters, I do think there is a strong role for government in trying to incentivize and preserve a mix of housing for all incomes. But the Mayor won’t even do the easy things, so what makes us think he can do the hard ones? Case in point – prioritizing public lands for housing. Except when they happen to be in well-heeled neighborhoods like Nob Hill, who got the city to use limited Open Space acquisition money to buy the old PUC reservoir, even though RecPark’s own analysis showed this was not a high-need area.

    Secondly, I don’t see anything in here about aggressively looking to rezone for more housing and revisiting some of the bad planning mistakes made in the past. Prime target would be upzoning the Western SOMA Plan and Mission Bay, especially since we’re sinking so much into the 4th street train.

  6. Posted by R

    Haven’t we already decided that, not only is affordable housing still basically unaffordable for those who really need it, but its the income requirements are too low for those who could probably best benefit from it (people starting families, etc.).

    Rent control is undoubtedly an issue, but abolishing it would probably never happen… amending it, on the other hand would be a pretty intelligent move. Spreading out incremental hikes over a shorter period of time (5 year increase %, 10 year increase %, etc), to allow property owners a way to actually profit/save/invest, and keep renters motivated to eventually buy, and so on. If the spectrum of renters in my building is any indication, most of the renters benefiting from long-term rent control are un/under employed, and have been in the same unit for more than 15 years. This is no good.

    • Posted by Spencer

      Even allowing rent control rent increases to equal cpi would help

      • Posted by medalist

        “…most of the renters benefiting from long-term rent control are un/under employed, and have been in the same unit for more than 15 years.” Very true, cheap rent an be counter-motivational.

    • Posted by BetterSF

      Abolishing rent control is doable at state level. Massachusetts has done it 20 years ago. It is much harder to ease rent control on city level than abolishing rent control at state level

      Just google: “massachusetts rent control prohibition act”

      • Posted by two beers

        I’m glad you brought Massachusetts up!

        The evidence shows that reversing rent control jacks up rents, and throws many people into homelessness.

        You have every right to promote ending rent control as a means to increase your profits. Just don’t hypocritically claim that it will do anything to make housing more affordable or to increase the stock of affordable housing, because the evidence shows that it does the opposite.

        • Posted by San FronziScheme

          two beers,

          If you want affordable housing and have some semblance of social justice then you’ll agree with me that affordable housing should be allocated to people who need it.

          Some of my friends are still living in the places they occupied 15 years ago when they were students. They make 5 times what they made when they had side-jobs. They were supposed to move on and move up. Instead they are hogging precious housing at the expense of the landlord and newcomers.

          And social housing should be a shared burden, not a cost that you stack on an unlucky landlord who just happened to have pulled the short straw.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            No one “pulled the short straw” because no one has to be a landlord and no one that wants to be a landlord has to own a rent-controlled unit, even in California more than 90% of all housing units are not rent controlled.

            Rather unsocial of you to judge “my friends … were supposed to move on and move up. Instead they are hogging precious housing…” If this is the kind of “social justice” you want among friends…

          • Posted by San FronziScheme

            I see we have the boilerplate response “why did they choose to be landlords in the first place” response. Well, many landlords either inherited their property or purchased their property prior rent control. I have visited countless run down buildings that old timers or their heirs wanted to unload that were packed solid with tenants paying 6 to 10 times less than current market rate. They are too old to wage a battle against their tenants, and have to accept lower property value. Yes,it was imposed on them and none of the situation was their making. even someone who purchased just 10 years ago purchased under different rental conditions. The Supes add a new law every couple of months, expecting different results from new restrictions. All they get in return is higher market rents (for the lucky landlords who have an available unit) and more demands from the renter crowd who will never be happy until their rent becomes zero forever.

            About my friends, I know this situation has affected the way they lead their lives. For instance 2 of them have been in the same sweet deal since 1998 and they just can’t resolve to move. One is a manager in a software company. The other one is a designer doing pretty OK herself. I understand why they stay where they are but I also understand the social cost of allowing these situations to suck out the oxygen from a dysfunctional market. They live like students with incomes sufficient to have their 3/3 in Noe. I was in a similar situation but decided to purchase instead. Now I am a market rate landlord thank you very much.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            I see we have the typical stooge response with quoting what was not said and (“countless”) exaggerated claims about the unfairness of it all to so many so vulnerable and the heartless cruelty that any law should ever change in any way. The core laws “were imposed on them” decades ago and after they received an enormous property tax cut which has only gotten richer for them with time.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            boilerplate response again. A low property tax cut is nothing if the income of a property is virtually nothing and the property value is killed by the entitlements. Tthere are many properties that are running on fumes, or more precisely on the savings of the landlord. All landlords will accept a zero tax cut as long as they can collect market rate. At least they would be able to afford the deferred maintenance. And yes I have seen many buildings like these.

            You didn’t respond on my questions on the issues of shared burden, or means control, or the fact of newcomers who have to overpay their market rent so that the entitled can have cheap rent. All valid points that shatter the illusion that rent control could be some kind of social justice.

            It’s all about the free lunch and how long it will last.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            More fact-free, self-satisfied moralizing, claiming to speak for “all landlords”, exaggerating market realities to cloak a weak, tired, oft-repeated, never validated screed. Never once producing any evidence, just huffing and puffing anecdotes and make believe.
            How many times are you going to complain in the same lame flame of your blame game? Question marked.
            It’s all about the fact-free and how endlessly it will be repeated.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            1 – You are not answering on the facts. Obviously you have reached to the end of your talking points cheat sheet. Exhibit A the ad-hominem failed attack.
            2 – What are your other usernames? If I am answering to someone who keeps switching his handle you are bound to get the same replies to your same questions.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            When two beers above introduced a study from a well-respected expert, you ignored it and responded with another anecdote about your friends. When in the past others have pointed out to you that nearby cities without rent control have high rents, you ignored them. How do you explain the fact that median rent in San Mateo County is higher than in San Francisco? How do you explain that when rent control was eliminated in MA rents in Boston and Cambridge went up for non rent-controlled units and by more than can be accounted for by other factors? How many times have you dodged these questions? Not merely once or twice, but many countable times. And you lecture about “not answering on the facts.”

            It wouldn’t be fair to call your posts on rent control “boilerplate”, which implies at least a useful substance even if in routine form. You’ve posted the same ‘I know all you need to know about rent control to be against it in 100 words or less’ packed with personal anecdotes, exaggerations, and made-up math “countless” times. Somedays you post it multiple times across two or more threads. Do you even have to think about what you write about rent control anymore or do you just let muscle memory takeover?

            I’m attacking the caliber of your posts on this topic, not the quality of your character. You’ve produced many insightful posts on other topics, such as comparisons of landlord and renter in France with USA and how to work 30+ day leases in SF. Sadly, somehow on rent control you’ve not gone beyond the stray experience of some friends, your own wanderings, and some tired tropes to face the actual research.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            Ending rent control makes rents more expensive on average. Big surprise. That’s the point. Yes some people have to realize they can’t afford things once the free lunch is gone. The problem is the free lunch in the first place.

            And about the ad-hominem, well, that tells more about you dude. Who are you actually? Please humor us and give us the other handles you have used. Someone who changes handles wants a clean slate usually lost a battle in the past. I have used 2 names as San Fronzischeme and lol and I explained the switches. All my posts can be found all the way to 2007. And yes I have a knowledge of rent control from the practical, financial and legal side which is why I am doing what I am doing today. And your ad-hominem responses prove you can’t find a valid argument that others and I have already debunked numerous times. You lost. You switched names. Typical.

            Last, I asked you to give me your opinion about the fairness of rent control and in particular means testing and the shared burden of subsidized housing. Twice. Every time you tried to deflect the question. Well, why am I not surprised? Rent control advocates would self-implode if they ever had to even think about these questions, because they are physically living in the contradiction of asking for a free lunch for no rational reason (I was here first, pay me!) all the while invoking the argument of social justice (people before profits!). That’s the reason you cannot win in a debate. But you have more voters. For now.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            Ending rent control makes rents more expensive on average for units that were never rent-controlled. That was a surprising outcome of ending rent control in MA, surprising for most people anyway. Economists have explained what happened and why and made it easy to see how a similar outcome would be expected in San Francisco. This has been pointed out to you by other “dudes” than me on this and other threads, including by two beers above.
            Ending rent control also makes rents more expensive on average for formerly rent-controlled units, reduces affordability, and increases homelessness. That is what the facts and evidence show.
            As a landlord in San Francisco, you should expect to profit from the ending of rent control, just like two beers said above.

      • Posted by BetterSF

        San Francisco has rent control and its rental market is much worse than Boston. Many people from Massachusetts wish to go back due to SF’s ridiculous rent market.

        • Posted by pity the lords of the land

          Yeah, right, of course no one wants to rent in San Francisco, there are too many people there who think the plural of anecdote is data and confuse conjecture with facts.

          • Posted by Not Bashing

            Lords – you seem to take a word or two out of every post and seize on it, instead of actually reading for content. I know very little about renting in Boston, but I do know it is cheaper to do so. BetterSF was simply pointing that out, in no way saying “no one wants to rent in San Francisco”. As far as “the same old arguments about rent control” goes, why would you change your argument when it is excellent? And it still has not been refuted in this chain? One (of several) good points that you refuse to even acknowledge is that the burden of rent control lands squarely on the owner of a property. If this is supposed to be a social good, shouldn’t we all (SF Taxpayers) bear the burden? This is subsidized housing, why should only one group pay for it? Also, what is wrong with means testing? Isn’t the point of rent control to allow individuals and families who otherwise could not stay in San Francisco to do so? Don’t we want those who actually need affordable housing to live in it?

            For the record, I know several people who definitely would have to move out of SF if they lost their rent controlled apt. I also know several who have had their place for 15-20 years, make much more money than they used to and no longer need rent control. It is a valid question to ask, whether the evidence is anecdotal or not. If it turns out that most who live in rent controlled units need to do so, then means testing should be no problem.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            NB, OK, you understood BetterSF’s post as meaning the Boston rental market was “cheaper” than San Francisco. Not my reading of these ambiguous statements, but fair enough, and the data exists, so is it true?

            Well, it is true that the median rent in Boston is lower than in San Francisco, but it isn’t true that the rent paid as a percentage of income is lower. In fact it is higher in Boston measured both for the entire population and for renters. So, using commonly accepted meanings, yes the rental market in Boston is cheaper than in San Francisco, but it is also less affordable. Does that make either better or worse or more or less ridiculous? Seems a naive way to even talk about it, at least to me.

            As to your “the burden of rent control lands squarely on the owner of a property”: talk about regurgitating an old canard, wow, just wow. Well regarded economic studies that have been discussed before on this site and with lol/fronzi show clearly that the economic burdens of rent control fall widely throughout the community and not just on the owners of the rent-controlled properties.

            Means testing is an attractive idea for all kinds of government programs. Haven’t seen anymore than anecdotal evidence that applying it would make much difference to the rental market in San Francisco. There are studies that much greater social returns would result from means testing the home interest deduction and prop 13 than the entirety of rent control. In fact the gains from either of those would be enough to massively expand affordable housing programs. So if you are looking for a way to use means testing of government real estate subsidies to achieve more affordable housing, plenty of evidence where to start.

          • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

            Wow I have just read what you have responded to “Not Bashing” about the questions I have been asking. I can’t believe you are saying those things.

            One country I know very well does exactly what I am suggesting. And it is a very advanced social system in a very equalitarian country.

            In France say you make 2000 Euros/month and you rent a place for 850. The government will give you 200 Euros per month to bring back your rent expense to 1/3 of your income. You can collect this subsidy all your life. The government will pay for it, aka ALL taxpayers.

            This system has been going on for more than 60 years. It was put in place to replace an antiquated rent control system that pretty much resembles the one we have in SF.

            Now the logical question is why SF would accept to have such a messed up rent controlled system when a country as socialist as France has moved on towards a more just – shared burden / means testing – system.

            Easy: 1) many supporting rent control would NOT get any subsidy. 2) the other thing they hate as much as getting no subsidy is paying more taxes to support the ones who would deserve the subsidy.

            In short: selfishness.

          • Posted by pity the lords of the land

            Sorry to disappoint, but I lack both your passion for telling the world how to organize and your easy ability to reduce the motivations of our fellow citizens to single words.

  7. Posted by BetterSF

    SF only has 2% of the California population. Its housing problem is caused by its own policies. Rent control is in the center of the SF housing policies. It is the source of all the housing problems.

    To solve any problem successfully, you need to fix the source of the problem. It is obvious that the only solution is fix or do away with rent control. However, it is impossible to fix the SF rent control within the city boundary. I think the most practical solution is to pass a state law to prohibit rent control. That’ll solve the SF housing problem in the future years. During the transition period from a government controlled housing market to a market based housing market, there will be some discomfort. It is a price we have to pay to correct the past policy mistakes. Short term pain for long term gain, seems a wise tradeoff.

    • Posted by Not Bashing

      While I am not well versed in the % of income that your typical Bostonian pays in rent, I would like to see some numbers to back that up. As of the 4th quarter of 2013, the median rent as a share of median income in SF was 40.7%. Rents rose 14% in 2014. The figures I just found for Boston show 19.87% as of the 4th quarter of 2013. What am I missing? As I said, I know next to nothing about Boston, but the stats I found seem to tell a different story…

      As for studies on rent control, where are they? Let’s see them. I am interested to see how someone arrived at the conclusion that this is not a direct tax on one party to benefit another. The last I read over 90% of economists polled agreed that rent control has the opposite of the intended effect – meaning it drives rents up. And these are people who typically can’t agree on anything! I am always open to other views, but you need to present actual evidence instead of just suggesting that I am naive.

      You want to remove the home interest deduction completely? Fine by me! Take it, it’s yours. WAY overrated, absolutely no skin off my nose. But I am not “looking for a way to achieve more affordable housing”. I am looking for a way to spread the responsibility around to more than just landlords.

      If you have actual evidence I am happy to look at it. So far, just bluster and insult…

      • Posted by pity the lords of the land

        us census 2013 median gross rent as a percentage of household income: san francisco below 28%, boston over 30%. fyi, rent paid not rent ask. nber, mit, and the city of boston published studies of the end of rent control in ma, been linked to before, easy to find.

        • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

          Of course if you take paid rent you are including the throngs of subsidized tenants. Talk about outliers! I have seen people paying 750 for 4 bedrooms!

          Newcomers can pay almost 50% of their income while others pay 10%, the average is 30%: everything is just fine. Just like the guy who has his head in the oven and his legs in the freezer. Average is 70 degrees, nothing to see there move along, lol.

        • Posted by pity the lords of the land

          The purpose is to understand and compare the rental housing markets of Boston and San Francisco. That is almost 400,000 households, not just the households that have your august approval. If you think there is a better metric, why not suggest it and provide us the data?
          The census includes a distribution of households within a market by what percentage of income they pay in gross rent. For example in 2013, nearly 25% of Boston households that rent paid 50% or more of their income in gross rent, while for San Francisco it was nearly 20%. There was also a higher percentage of Boston renters that paid over 40%, and higher over 30%.
          Perhaps if you familiarize yourself with the actual data, you wouldn’t have to make up so many numbers and substitute anecdotes for statistics.

  8. Posted by Paul7

    I read it – not very impressive. Anyone long familiar with SF housing development process knows the City prioritizes housing for the richest 10% and the poorest 10% – while the middle 80% can go suck an egg. This plan just perpetuates more of that failed ideology.

  9. Posted by moto mayhem

    the city does not prioritize housing for the richest 10%. the free market tied lack of market rate supply in addition to rent control, are what makes housing available to only the richest 10%.

    • Posted by AnalyzeVotes

      First, we give permanent housing to all the low income people and homeless people. These people will never move, so these housing are out of circulation.

      Next, we give 66% of the housing to rent control. A large percentage of rent controlled units will be out of circulation for generations.

      The leftover market rate housing is only 30% of the housing stock. These limited market rate housing is for all the middle income, upper middle income and the rich to compete for. Mathematically it is impossible for everyone to afford a housing here.

      What’s the solution, Fellow San Franciscans?

      Other than complaint, is there any solution to this problem at all? Unless you are willing to consider the alternatives to rent control and how to make housing subsidy more effective.

      • Posted by moto mayhem

        my solution is to work harder smarter and get richer so i dont get left behind

      • Posted by pity the lords of the land

        First, we stereotype and misrepresent the behavior of thousands of people: “These people will never move.”
        Next, we exaggerate statistics, for example less than 50% of San Francisco housing units are rent-controlled.
        So many questionable statements.

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