San Francisco Affordable Housing Policy Sets Best Practices

Nov 28, 2012, 12:14 ET from Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Study Lauds City's Approaches to Prevent Displacement, Push Economic Inclusion

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In decades past, San Francisco earned a notorious reputation for a pricey housing market and urban renewal programs that displaced low-income families and stymied community growth. A new study shows in the last 30 years, the city reversed that trend through advocacy, deliberate policymaking and targeted funding.

Released today by the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP), the study, From Urban Renewal and Displacement to Economic Inclusion, details how from 1978 to 2012 San Francisco transformed its housing landscape into a "dynamic affordable housing system."

By employing a four-pronged strategy of advocacy and community coalitions, fixed funding sources, housing programs that adjust to market fluctuations, and fostering the development of inclusive communities, the City by the Bay surmounted geographical limitations and dense population to provide low-income residents with access to affordable housing. These efforts also have helped to develop robust local communities, which were once stymied, or altogether diminished by land development practices.

Study authors Marcia Rosen and Wendy Sullivan note that San Francisco's affordable housing and community development policies primarily originated during the late 1960s and on through 2012. According to the study, prior to 1968, San Francisco had a dearth of affordable housing options and a growing trend of displacement under the City's urban renewal program.

"This data is a tremendous testament to the power of advocacy and sustainable revenue strategies to influence housing policies so that communities can offer affordable housing options," said Philip Tegeler, executive director of PRRAC. "In spite of intense, and continuing, gentrification pressures, San Francisco has managed to develop a model approach for building up strong, diverse local communities."

Establishing funding sources was a vital component to San Francisco's turn-around, Rosen and Sullivan write.  The study highlights how the City provided significant funding through strategic partnerships with nonprofit developers and housing advocates. For example, between FY 2002-03 and FY 2010-11, more than $725 million dollars was allocated to affordable housing from City and locally-controlled funding sources, more than $356 million dollars from state sources, and upwards of $829 million dollars from federal sources for a total just short of $2 billion dollars.

Other funding streams include a permanent City hotel tax and a measure (Proposition A passed in 1996) that earmarks $100 million for affordable housing.

In addition to strategic financial sources, the City's affordable housing success has also has been spurred by community groups that organized to help maintain affordable housing in their communities. These groups also later added community development as a top priority.

All efforts, initiatives and policies combined, San Francisco has 500 residential hotels with 19,120 rooms and more than 200,000 "price-controlled" housing units that comprise 53 percent of its entire housing stock.

Despite all its gains, the study notes that in 2012 California's $25 billion dollar budget deficit caused the State to dissolve all of its 400 redevelopment agencies to lessen the fiscal chasm. Included in that mass disintegration was the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA), which had been a major funder of the City's affordable housing.

In November 2012, San Francisco voters approved the creation of the Housing Trust Fund, which will replenish the eradicated redevelopment revenues and again set aside money for the City's affordable housing.

Study authors Rosen and Sullivan conclude that, "San Francisco must continue to evolve its policy to fill in the gaps in its housing needs and find creative and substantial sources of funding to develop and maintain affordable housing in what is typically the most expensive housing market in the nation."

Download the full report here.

Interview opportunities:
Marcia Rosen, study author | executive director of NHLP
Wendy Sullivan, study author | attorney and planning consultant
Philip Tegeler, study publisher | executive director of PRRAC

(Ms. Rosen is Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project (NHLP), a national public interest law firm located in San Francisco, and a former Director of the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing and former Executive Director of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Ms. Sullivan is an attorney and planning consultant with over ten years of experience helping communities throughout the western U.S. identify their affordable and workforce housing needs.  For broadcast and print interviews, please contact Michael K. Frisby 202-625-4328 or Kimberly N. Alleyne 703-855-9604 .)

Media Contacts:
Michael K. Frisby
Kimberly N. Alleyne

SOURCE Poverty & Race Research Action Council