SF’s Housing Program Fails Teachers and Students

by on March 21, 2017

New Proposal Expands Benefits

The United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) opposes changes proposed by Supervisors Safai, Breed and Tang to the city’s inclusionary housing law. According to its op-ed in the SF Chronicle, UESF believes the proposal “pits low-income and middle-income workers and families who have been shut out of the real estate market against one another. Instead of expanding the pie for both groups, it takes away housing opportunities from many of the very families we serve.”

I don’t know understand the factual basis for UESF’s conclusions.

Here is what we know. Every UESF teacher in a single household is barred from the city’s current inclusionary housing program. That’s because their income exceeds 55% of area median ($41,000 per year).

These teachers would qualify for inclusionary housing under the Safai-Breed-Tang proposal.

We also know that the vast majority of families whose students attend San Francisco schools earn too little to now qualify for inclusionary housing. According to the school district’s website, 61% of students get a free or reduced fee school lunch.

In spring 2016, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, backed by Market Street for the Masses, filed a CEQA appeal against the Shorenstein Company’s project at 1066 Market Street on the grounds that the current 55% inclusionary formula would not serve the Tenderloin’s low-income families. The Tenderloin has 3000-4000 kids, most of whom go to San Francisco public schools.

In other words, current law denies inclusionary opportunities to Tenderloin families. Adding teachers to those benefiting from inclusionary housing—which the Safai-Breed-Tang proposal does—could not take housing away from families that currently do not qualify for it.

The Peskin-Kim inclusionary proposal lowers eligibility for larger projects to 40% ami, which could reach some Tenderloin families excluded under current law. I’ve been told the Safai-Breed-Tang proposal lowers eligibility to 45% ami.

Either would be positive changes that should be included in any final version.

I don’t know which families UESF serves that it believes qualify for inclusionary housing but would not under the Safai-Breed-Tang plan.  I doubt there are many. Meanwhile, UESF seems unconcerned about students in the district whose families would be eligible for assistance for the first time under the new proposal.

The city’s current inclusionary law fails to serve either its families or its teachers. The proposed law does not “pit” these groups against each other; it expands housing opportunities for both.

I’ve argued for a decade that the city’s inclusionary law disproportionately helps single adults and families that lack children. It fails to provide incentives for the two and three bedroom units that families with kids need. That’s another weakness with current law that the Safai-Breed-Tang proposal addresses.

The Big Housing Picture

A lot of SFUSD students live in public housing. San Francisco is spending over one billion dollars to rebuild this vital resource for “the very families” that UESF members serve.

The vast majority of San Francisco’s affordable nonprofit housing budget also goes to low-income families. TNDC’s upcoming Eddy/Taylor project is among the many projects that prioritize families largely shut out under the current inclusionary law.

TNDC builds no housing for families earning over 80% of area median. Does that mean they and other nonprofits with similar priorities are “pitting” the families they serve against those they do not who also have housing needs?

Of course not.

Not every city affordable housing program must serve the same population. If politicians want to match their rhetoric about “preserving San Francisco’s middle-class” with action, they need to support an inclusionary proposal that offers assistance to this income group.

Extending inclusionary housing to people who earn too much to qualify for public or nonprofit housing does not pit anyone against each other. It instead expands benefit levels so more families are eligible.

The idea that there is a fight brewing at City Hall between those championing “Housing for All” and those “pitting low-income and middle-income workers” against each other is utter nonsense. The two sides have far more in common than the rhetoric indicates.

The actual number of units involved in this debate is small. It only involves housing not yet in the pipeline, meaning units that will not exist until at least 2020. In other words, activists looking for a “fight for the soul of San Francisco” around these inclusionary housing proposals have picked the wrong issue.

Far better to address San Francisco’s affordability crisis by focusing on repealing Costa-Hawkins, getting the state to fund housing, or working to expedite the city’s housing approval process.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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