Q: Can we really do this?
Absolutely. Quality public or municipal (City-run) housing of this form is common across the world. We've crafted this measure based on approaches taken by other programs that have passed across the world. We just need volunteers to get this measure on the ballot and help spread the word. We can do this!
Q: The affordable housing sounds good, but why all the amenities, like childcare and public restrooms?
This measure isn't the sort of short-term, single-issue solution you're used to seeing from politicians. We're looking holistically at what causes communities to thrive or struggle. Working families need full-day childcare nearby so that both parents can keep their careers, and so their children can get equal footing in school. We also need accessible community facilities, to gain access to all of the resources our city provides. Finally, we're building public restrooms around the city because we believe in basic human dignity and sanitation.
Q: How is this different from what we're doing now?
Right now, the city doesn't invest enough in affordable housing on its own. Much of the money for affordable housing comes from "set-asides" or "feeing-out" of actually building affordable housing; when a developer builds a luxury tower, they're required to at least set aside ~15% of units for below-median-income households, or pay a fee. But that means we have to build around 85 overpriced units for every 15 units that are decently affordable to San Franciscans! A program like that can never meet our affordability needs as it stands, and it clearly hasn't.
Meanwhile, the federal government has also been under-funding HUD over several decades, from Reagan to Trump.
So we're changing the rules — we'll get our own funding, and we'll renovate and build homes for our community without the luxury developers, international tycoons, or Wall St speculators. This is San Francisco — we should show bold leadership when the federal government and wealthy investors aren't representing our communities!
Q: How is this different from our old public housing?
In many parts of the world, including parts of Europe and Asia, publicly-owned housing is the backbone of modest-income and middle-class communities. This measure was written with the advice of immigrants from Europe and Asia who grew up in municipal housing and want to show Americans just how good it can be. We also collaborated with former SF Housing Authority staff, SF planners, housing activists, and other policy wonks to find exactly where we were going wrong. The difference boils down to investment and accountability.
In SF, we didn't hold our local elected officials accountable for federal public housing, and the federal government seriously defunded maintenance over several decades. This measure changes who's accountable for the housing — instead of the federal government, you, the Mayor, and the Board of Supervisors have a say. On top of that, we've crafted the measure to ensure that housing complexes remain self-sustainable in terms of rent covering costs, so the city can keep expanding its stock of permanently affordable municipal housing.
Q: If we win, how do I apply to live there?
For vacant units (new construction or folks naturally moving out), there will be an application process, and you'll have to live or work in SF as described in our "Details" page. Specifically, you'll have to prove SF residency, student, or work status, and pledge not to own a "second home" or rent a unit elsewhere in the city if you're accepted. After that, there will be regular monthly lotteries for new applicants, for any vacant units created by new construction or tenants choosing to move out.
If you're currently renting and your building is bought by the city to keep it permanently affordable, you will be guaranteed your original unit, regardless of your income or residency.
Q: Does this measure put more land back in the public trust?
Yes, absolutely! We require both public ownership and public management of the land used for housing, with all profits reinvested back into creating more affordable municipal housing under this program. The Mayor's Office of Housing will hire qualified staff to help manage properties and its portfolio. We also ensure public accountability with annual financial audits, as well as a performance audit every three years to check the program is on track to meet its goals.
Q: Why is this separate from the San Francisco Housing Authority?
The SF Housing Authority (SFHA) Commission is a state-chartered and federally (under-)funded entity that is currently appointed entirely by the Mayor (due to state law) and lacks adequate oversight. The SFHA is also only required to have two tenant commissioners out of seven.
Our measure introduces democratic oversight from both Community Councils and the Board of Supervisors, and uses the City's examination and hiring process to ensure qualified, unionized employees are retained. We also ensure adequate funding for maintenance in the long run.
This SFHA's lack of proper accountability and expertise is part of the reason why the Housing Authority is currently in a HUD recovery agreement, along with, of course, the federal government's decades' worth of cuts to HUD. We do, of course, need to reform the SFHA and the federal public housing system, but that is outside of the scope of a City ballot initiative.