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News + PoliticsHousingSF promised a lot of affordable housing—but community leaders say it won't...

SF promised a lot of affordable housing—but community leaders say it won’t happen

New report has lots of 'creative' ideas, but there's nowhere near enough funding to meet the state mandated goals—and the Mayor's Office admits it.


The only way the city will meet its state-mandated affordable housing goals if the federal government increases housing subsidies by a factor of five and the voters pass a regional housing bond of as much as $80 billion, the Mayor’s Office now admits.

“It will take heroic efforts to meet those goals. San Francisco can’t do it alone,” Daniel Adams, director of the Mayors Office of Housing and Economic Development, told the Planning Commission today.

Federal and state funding, he said, has been reduced, and is “insufficent and variable.”

Adams was presenting the report of the Affordable Housing Leadership Council, an appointed group with the mandate to

Provide recommendations to San Francisco City staff and policymakers on funding and financing and other strategies needed to deliver 46,000 housing units affordable at extremely low, very low, low, and moderate incomes as called for in the housing targets of the City’s recently adopted Housing Element

The presentation made clear that none of the strategies are going to work, and the city is going to fall far short.

The state doesn’t seem to care about that; thanks to Sen. Scott Wiener, the state is offering no support for affordable housing and instead focusing on how much cities to do make room for market-rate housing.

Commissioner Kathrin Moore put the question simply: How will all the strategies in the 132-page report “get us from here to there?”

Adams: “That’s a big question.” He continued: “By design, we did not let the burden of an increasingly daunting task limit the creativity in the room. … There is no way to say that six years from now we will do X or Y or Z because it is in the plan.”

Adams said that the federal government needs to increase Section 8 housing vouchers by 500 percent, “and the region passes a $20 billion, but my $40 billion or $80 billion” bond, that’s how we get there.”

I’m all in favor. It’s not about to happen.

That means the Housing Element that the Planning Commission, the Board of Supes and the mayor all signed off on with great fanfare is, as I have said before, a farce, a fantasy, and nothing more.

This is probably one of the greatest punitive unfunded state mandates in California history. Wiener doesn’t seem to care, as long as for-profit developers get everything they want.

Jeantelle Laberinto says the city’s approach is destined to fail. Photo by Joseph Smooke, PeoplePowerMedia

The Race and Equity in All Planning Coalition says the report is not just empty promises; it’s moving backward.

“If we keep doing things the same way, we’re going to end up with the same results—nearly all new housing being out of reach for most San Franciscans. This is the sum of the actions in the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Leadership Council report,” Jeantelle Laberinto of the Race & Equity in all Planning Coalition, said in a statement.

From the coalition:

The recommendations in the report from the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Leadership Council will not change the outcome from the last eight years when we fell short of our affordable housing goals by 8,000 units, during the previous Housing Element cycle (2014–2022). Instead, we overbuilt expensive, market-rate housing.


“The report from the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Leadership Council is full of the same supply-side, trickle-down economics, and developer giveaways that the City has always done. We know this approach doesn’t work. The only way to get to the 57% new affordable housing mandated by the state is through the REP-SF’s Citywide People’s Plan, our communities’ blueprint for the real solutions for affordability and equity across the city,” says Dyan Ruiz of the REP-SF coalition.

In my mind, the only way we are ever going to do this is to start talking seriously about taxes—you know, taking money from rich people that they would rather keep. There’s more than enough just from the 68 billionaires and the hundreds of centi-millionaires in San Francisco to address the problem.

Oh, and I believe that Speaker Emeritus Nancy Pelosi still has a lot of power in Congress. But she’s never used her clout, even when she had a Democratic majority in both houses and a Democratic president, to send San Francisco the billions it needs for affordable housing.

And I haven’t heard this mayor, or any previous mayor, said a word in public about that.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


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