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SF wants $600 million housing bond for 2,800 homes

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Two-thirds of voters must approve borrowing plan in off-year election

A high-rise tower under construction near Caltrain in San Francisco. Via Shutterstock

The city wants to borrow $600 million for a housing bond to create 2,800 affordable homes in four years, but voters must approve the measure by a two-thirds margin in November’s off-year election to make it happen.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the bond measure on Tuesday, which lawmakers called a necessary tool to fight the housing crisis.

In a statement after the vote, Board President Norman Yee said, “I am hopeful that the voters of San Francisco will agree overwhelmingly that affordable housing is a public need.”

Mayor London Breed, who introduced the bond measure in January, praised the vote and said, “Building more housing requires a wide range of solutions.”

According to the language of the measure:

Proceeds of the bonds will be used to fund the costs of capital projects that will construct, develop, acquire, and preserve housing affordable to extremely-low, low and middle-income households through programs that will prioritize the city’s vulnerable populations such as working families, veterans, seniors and persons with disabilities through (i) the acquisition, rehabilitation and preservation of existing affordable housing to prevent the displacement of City residents; (ii) the repair and reconstruction of distressed and dilapidated public housing developments and their underlying infrastructure; (iii) the construction of new 100 percent affordable rental housing and; (iv) provide assistance to the city’s middle-income residents in obtaining affordable rental or home ownership opportunities including down payment loan assistance for San Francisco Unified School District educators and other middle-income working households.

The $600 million price tag factors out to $214,285 per unit, although not all of the money in the bond will go expressly toward new construction—$150 million is earmarked for repair of public housing sites, for example.

The city’s most recent housing bond in 2015 created 1,613 new homes for $300 million. Originally, the bond proposal was $500 million, which would have yielded 2,415 homes.

The largest sum in the bond plan, $220 million, would go specifically toward affordable housing for those making 80 percent or less of the city’s area median income—$68,950 for a single person in 2019, or $98,500 for a family of four, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

The bond will requires a second vote later this month before it is officially placed on the ballot, but the unanimous backing leaves little suspense about the outcome. Six city lawmakers co-sponsored the measure to begin with.

The election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5.