Finding common ground during this contentious campaign season isn’t easy. Yet here in San Francisco, people are coming together around Proposition C, a Housing Preservation Bond that will create permanent affordable housing and prevent displacement.
Proposition C is an innovative measure that frees up $261 million in funding that is left over from a 1992 seismic safety bond. Voters approved that measure after the Loma Prieta Earthquake as a source of funding to reinforce the City’s masonry buildings. That seismic work is mostly completed and more than half of the original funding remains unused.
With voter approval in November, San Francisco can tap into the unused bond funds and put them to work on the most pressing housing challenges that we face today, an immense housing crisis in which people are being forced from their homes and out of San Francisco.
Specifically, Proposition C would make these leftover bond funds available for the rehabilitation of at-risk residential buildings and then convert them to permanently affordable housing. This money would help with seismic, fire, safety, and other code upgrades, and allow nonprofit affordable housing developers to acquire the buildings.
The rehabilitation and preservation of existing buildings is a critical complement to the construction of new affordable housing. For example, there are buildings across San Francisco, including “soft story” wood-frame residential buildings, that are at-risk of structural failure during an earthquake or fire because of substandard wiring. Rehabilitating these buildings improves safety for residents and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Funds from Proposition C will also provide an important boost to San Francisco’s new Small Sites program. This successful but under-funded program that was designed and is being implemented by local affordable housing organizations like the Community Land Trust, Mission Economic Development Agency and San Francisco Housing Development Corp, provides loans to nonprofit organizations to acquire and permanently preserve small properties as affordable housing. Many tenants who once faced eviction are now able to stay in their homes thanks to more than a dozen projects that have already been completed over the last two years. Proposition C will provide a much-needed source of new funding for this acquisition program—up to $30 million per year.
Prop C is unanimously supported by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor, the SF Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a wide diversity of tenant, neighborhood, and nonprofit affordable housing groups. This united coalition includes the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, Community Housing Partnership, Hospitality House, San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee and the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations.
Proposition C has such widespread support because it is the only measure on the ballot that creates new affordable housing—and it does this by using an existing source of funds. Property tax rates are not impacted since bonding authority was previously authorized.
Affordable housing advocates also recognize that Proposition C is a critical anti-displacement measure that stabilizes housing and helps tenants facing Ellis Act eviction. Passage in November can make a profound impact on the lives of residents and neighborhoods. ≠
Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti are the co-directors of San Francisco’s Council of Community Housing Organizations.