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Inside the Fuzzy Math of 40 Percent Affordable Housing

When Supervisor Jane Kim introduced a ballot measure to increase requirements for the amount of affordable housing that developers must produce to 25 percent, there was one part of her measure that didn't get much attention. The legislation provides an exemption for projects "in which a height limit increase has been approved by a vote of the electors" or one that "has entered into a development agreement or other similar binding agreement with the City" by January 12, 2016. That would exempt the much-talked about 5M and Mission Rock projects—both of which have 40 percent affordable housing—from the new measure. Why? According to San Francisco Magazine, it may be because their versions of 40 percent wouldn't be enough under Kim's new rules.

Kim was involved in pushing both 5M and Mission Rock to 40 percent affordability, but San Francisco Magazine dove into the language of both and saw that 5M calls for creating enough affordable housing units to equal "forty percent of the total market rate units" in the project rather than 40 percent of total units. Their affordable housing units are actually 35 percent of total units. On top of that, there are different definitions of affordable based on what percentage of Area Median Income (AMI) the units cover. A big chunk of 5M's affordable units are set aside for residents making 150 percent of AMI and would not qualify as affordable under the new legislation, which caps affordable rentals for people making 100 percent of AMI and affordable condos for buyers making 140 percent of AMI.

On top of that, much of 5M's money for affordable housing is coming from its retail space revenues. These funds would have been paid anyway into an affordable housing fund as part of the city's "job's-housing linkage fee." So, as San Francisco Magazine concludes, if 5M "were a more typical residential project trying to meet the standard of 25 percent affordability laid out in Kim's ballot measure, it would fail." Taking out the units funded from the jobs-housing linkage, the units for 150 percent AMI earners, and recalculating percentages, you get just 21 percent affordable housing. So can projects actually meet 25 percent—much less 40 percent—affordable housing without the fuzzy math? If Kim's measure passes, we will find out.

· How Supervisor Kim's New Affordability Law Lets Developers Off the Hook [San Francisco Magazine]

Mission Rock

Pier 50, , CA 94158