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The latest news and announcements from Mayor London N. Breed

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Ahsha Safai Introduce Affordable Homes Now Ballot Measure to Streamline the Production of Affordable Housing

Affordable Homes Now would remove bureaucratic delays for new housing projects that either include 15% more affordable on-site units than currently required by the City or are 100% affordable

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí today announced the introduction of the “Affordable Homes Now” ballot measure for the June 2022 ballot that would streamline the production of affordable housing in order to address the housing crisis. The measure was introduced at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, December 14, and will require six votes to be placed on the ballot for the June election.  

Affordable Homes Now would provide streamlined approval for any new housing project that is at least 25 units and either 100% permanently affordable housing or provides 15% more permanently affordable on-site affordable units than otherwise required by the City. By doing so, projects could be built months, and sometimes years, faster than the current process allows for. This would reduce the cost required to build these projects, which means more projects would be economically feasible to build and more affordable housing could be built with limited City funds.

“San Francisco should be a leader on creating new homes in California, and this measure will help us fundamentally change how we approve housing in this City,” said Mayor Breed. “I’ve seen too many people I grew up with move away from this City or be pushed out because they can’t afford to live here, and I’m seeing that same thing happen with the next generation of young people. We need to get rid of the bureaucracy and barriers to new housing at all income levels so San Francisco can be a city for working people, for families, and for seniors who want to remain in their communities.”

“San Francisco is in the midst of a serious housing crisis. Our working families are being forced to leave the City because of the scarcity of affordable units. It is imperative that we build more housing and build it fast. This measure will ask for greater affordability and strong labor protections in exchange for a streamlined approval process – that is fair. The Mayor and I authored this legislation with working families in mind and I’m proud to support the measure as we move it toward the ballot,” said Supervisor Safaí.

Affordable Homes Now would remove significant delays in the process of building new homes by exempting projects from the discretionary review process, which can add months, and often years, to the creation of a project. The existing review process results in delays that prevent new homes from being built and increases the overall costs of projects. A study from the Terner Center at UC Berkeley found that the average time for a development to be permitted in San Francisco is roughly four years. Under Affordable Homes Now, qualifying projects would be required to be permitted within six months.

Specifically, projects that comply with existing zoning requirements, are at least 25 units, employ union labor for construction, and meet any of the following criteria would be subject to ministerial, or streamlined, approval:

  • Any project that is 100% affordable housing (up to 140% of Area Median Income),
  • Any project that includes 15% more affordable on-site permanently affordable units than otherwise required by the City.

For projects to qualify under Affordable Homes Now, they must include prevailing wage requirements for employees who work on the project. All projects must still comply with all building code requirements, life and safety requirements, and all other objective standards of the Planning Code.

Importantly, Affordable Homes Now would unlock housing for the “missing middle.” While San Francisco is currently creating some affordable housing at lower-income levels as well as some market-rate housing, housing for middle-income residents is largely not being built at all. Affordable Homes Now would reduce the timeline for new housing projects, making them cheaper to build and therefore able to be marketed at rents that are more affordable to middle-income residents. Additionally, it would result in more affordable housing units being constructed for low-income residents in smaller projects that otherwise may not be required to include them.

Specifically, for 100% affordable housing projects, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development estimated in 2020 that the average length of time saved for eligible projects would be between six and 18 months per project. Due to rising construction costs over time, this delay results in average project costs increasing by $1.5 million to $6 million, which equates to a loss of anywhere between six and 22 affordable homes per project. These additional costs apply to all projects subject to discretionary review, regardless of whether a project is actually appealed.

“San Francisco’s bureaucracy not only delays new housing from being built, but also drives up the cost for every new home. Affordable Housing Now will reform that system to cut through years of delays and save millions of dollars for new affordable housing, which will help the City address its housing shortage,” said Todd David, Executive Director of the Housing Action Coalition.

“San Francisco has been suffering from a devastating housing shortage for too long. We can't afford to wait any longer. We need housing built faster, and we need a process for permitting that stops enabling obstruction, that stops enabling NIMBYism, that gets us the homes we need now,” said Laura Foote, Executive Director of YIMBY Action.

“Our city has thousands living on the street and increasing numbers of San Franciscans unable to afford their home. Yet every month, badly needed affordable homes go unbuilt as a result of petty politics and a labyrinthian process. This measure would make it simple, straightforward and fast to build thousands of affordable homes in San Francisco. It can’t happen soon enough,” said Nick Josefowitz, Chief Policy Officer, SPUR.