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San Francisco County, CA November 7, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Affordable and Middle Class Housing Development

By Alix Amelia Rosenthal

Candidate for Member, Board of Supervisors; County of San Francisco; Supervisorial District 8

This information is provided by the candidate
Economic and cultural diversity are essential elements of a vibrant urban economy. Housing prices are driving out our middle class, families and artists. We must reverse this trend.
The Problem

To state the obvious: housing in San Francisco is outrageously expensive. Unfortunately, the cost of housing has become so high that even middle-class residents pay as much as 50% of their income in rent or mortgage payments, and San Francisco is becoming unwelcome to everyone except the very wealthy.

District 8's neighborhoods are known for their unique character and as havens for diversity and small local businesses. However, with City government allowing the building of "monster homes" and with the encroachment of big box retail and large franchises, we are losing our essential character, our diversity and increasingly becoming a city of extremes: rich and poor.

Real estate speculation is a serious problem in the San Francisco housing market. It is one of the reasons why housing prices continue to go up, and it is leading to the displacement of hundreds, possibly thousands of renters for the sole purpose of financial profit. We must do more to prevent rampant speculation.

The Solution

I am committed to building a San Francisco where people of diverse means can afford to live. Many in our community can only afford to live here through affordable housing and first time buyer programs. I will continue to support both innovative and proven programs to preserve our diversity and stop the flight of our middle class, such as community land trusts and cooperative housing.

With some small changes to current city housing policies, we can increase housing stock, especially affordable housing, which would increase the economic diversity of the City's population. I support infill housing along transit corridors and elsewhere as appropriate, which will in turn improve livability by keeping more people who work in the city living near their work, and by reducing the number of car trips taken.

To protect our community's unique character and small local businesses, we must establish strict new planning and design controls to preserve the quality, scale, and character of these neighborhoods. We must also ensure that small-scale infill developments fit into and complement the surrounding neighborhood. We must restrict the building of "monster homes" and protect our local businesses from big box retail and large franchises.

The City must do more to enact anti-speculation laws, and it must promote the development of new housing stock at all income levels to reduce demand for condominium conversions. As a renter who became a homeowner through condo conversion, I was surprised at how easy the conversion process was -- considering it resulted in a significant increase in my property's value. I will support legislation that will protect renters from displacement by real estate speculators, along with legislation that requires a fee for condo conversions that will be put towards development of new affordable housing.

We can learn from other large cities. San Francisco should study successful strategies from other jurisdictions and adapt best practices to suit San Francisco's unique housing situation.

Explore Innovative Strategies to Increase New Ownership and Rentership Opportunities

  • Establish incentives to turn non rent-controlled apartment buildings into co-ops with permanent affordability requirements
  • Endow community land trusts to enable tenants to purchase Ellis threatened buildings and buy in to affordable new housing stock

Eliminate Unnecessary Barriers to Increasing Housing Stock

  • Provide incentives for the development of new rental housing in exchange for rent stabilization and vacancy control
  • Facilitate building in-law units in existing homes where appropriate
  • Require unbundling of parking spaces from housing units, so as to make housing more affordable for those who choose not to own a car
  • Promote creative and appropriate infill housing with context appropriate density bonuses that supports commercial districts and along major transit corridors

Preserve Historic Character and Neighborhood Scale

  • Protect the character and diversity of communities by restricting "monster homes," protecting small business and mom-and-pop retail from chains and big- box retailers.
  • Promote housing on the scale and quality of design that creates humane places

Protect Renters Limit the ability of speculators to displace residents for windfall profits by:

  • Increasing the residency requirement for condo conversions while giving current tenants the right of first refusal and provide first-time buyer assistance
  • Closer oversight of the condo conversion process to insure that renters have not been displaced unlawfully, by spurious owner move ins , or by way of false Ellis Act evictions
  • Imposing a community benefit fee for condo conversions that will be put towards development of new affordable and middle class rental housing

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