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Why San Francisco just voted against affordable housing for teachers

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“The crisis will only get worse,” said Mayor Breed following vote favoring competing plan

homes in SF shrouded in fog on a hill. Photo via Shutterstock

On Thursday, a Board of Supervisors committee tossed out a plan by Mayor London Breed to make it faster and easier to build new housing for teachers in San Francisco, squashing Breed’s proposal after months of debate.

Breed’s plan would have amended the city charter and done away with certain tools that the public can use to appeal new building projects in the case of developments meant for teacher housing.

The now-defunct proposal defined teacher housing as: “A project for the development of residential units, where no less than two-thirds of the units are deed-restricted for the life of the project or a minimum of 55 years (whichever is longer) [...] to occupancy by at least one employee of the San Francisco Unified School District or San Francisco Community College District.”

City lawmakers didn’t like the broadness of those terms—or the mayor’s requirement that the housing “be affordable to households with an income up to 140 percent of the unadjusted area median family income,” wanting to see homes cheaper and aimed more exclusively at educators.

At Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting, Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer also chafed at the idea of altering the city charter.

“These definitions should not be set in stone,” she said.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin called the charter “sacrosanct” and pointed out that even the teacher’s union did not back the mayor’s proposal.

“That should be a very clear signal,” he said.

After the committee voted against the plan, Breed offered a stinging statement, saying via email, “I’m tired of people saying we’re in a housing crisis and then rejecting solutions that will actually make a difference. The status quo means less affordable housing will be built, more people will be priced out, and the crisis will only get worse.”

In lieu of Breed’s amendment, the committee pushed forward a competing idea for teacher housing, one written by supervisors, which would build new housing for teachers on public land.

This plan—which would not amend the charter—requires all homes in a qualifying development to go to school employees, rather than just two-thirds of them. It also lays out different ideas about affordability:

At least four-fifths of the units in an Educator Housing Project must be deed restricted for the Life of the Project or 55 years (whichever is longer) and consistent with any applicable tax credit regulatory requirements to be affordable to households with an income from 30 percent to 140 percent of the unadjusted area median family income (AMI), with an overall average of l00% AMI across all such units. Up to one- fifth of the units may be deed restricted up to a maximum 160 percent AMI.

Breed has pressed lawmakers to back her proposal, which would have require six votes on the board in order to move ahead to the November ballot, since introducing it in April, but with little luck.

The writing was already on the wall Thursday: The board’s teacher housing plan went to the committee with four supervisors listed as backers—Fewer, Peskin, Shamann Walton, and Matt Haney.

But Breed’s proposal appeared on the agenda with only one sponsor cited: “mayor.”

If the full board votes in favor of the new teacher housing plan, it will appear on the November ballot.