Guest Editorial: The Mayor’s Budget For Housing

by Doug Shoemaker on June 27, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: Beyond Chron has run multiple pieces on San Francisco’s proposed housing budget. The Mayor’s Office of Housing offers its perspective below.

Much of this year’s budget debate has centered on the issue of affordable housing. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the proposed 2007-2008 citywide housing budget is $217.5 million, an increase of $6 million over the current year budget of $212 million. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget for housing reflects the City’s ongoing prioritization of supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals and families, as well as a renewed emphasis on public housing revitalization through the HOPE SF program. The Mayor’s budget also continues San Francisco’s long-term commitment to creating new rental housing for very-low income families and seniors and providing first-time homebuyer opportunities for low and moderate income San Franciscans.

In broad terms, the budget includes $158.9 million through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to support 2,746 affordable housing units in the coming year. In addition, increased investments totaling $8.8 million has been added to the Human Services Agency and Public Health Department to fund more supportive housing units, including a new master lease hotel with 78 units.

On the public housing front, Mayor Newsom is proposing that the City issue a $95 million revenue bond to address the dire situation facing public housing. The HOPE SF task force appointed by the Mayor and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell called on the City to address the impact of federal disinvestment in public housing.

“While we firmly believe that the federal government has a responsibility to increase the funding for public housing,” said the report, “San Francisco must take action quickly to ensure no loss of public housing in our city.”

The task force called on the City to make a strong initial investment in funding HOPE SF. Accordingly, the Mayor’s budget proposal would ultimately finance the rebuilding of 800-900 units of the City’s most distressed public housing, representing about one-third of the SFHA’s most challenged housing developments. The Mayor’s Office of Housing will allocate those funds on a competitive basis in partnership with the San Francisco Housing Authority and other city agencies.

The HOPE SF revitalization efforts are committed to one-for-one replacement of every public housing unit and designed to create mixed-income communities. Relatively low-density sites will be rebuilt with new affordable rental and ownership homes and market-rate homes. Importantly, the $95 million local investment would leverage approximately $700 million in additional private and public funding.

These efforts will have a profound impact on the repair needs of public housing. Rebuilding 800-900 units will reduce the SFHA’s capital repair needs by $45-$50 million. In addition, the HOPE SF budget proposal calls for using $4 million over the next two years to address immediate repair needs in public housing developments. Collectively, these efforts will reduce the SFHA’s capital needs by over twenty percent. In the meantime, San Francisco will continue to advocate for additional federal spending on public housing, including HOPE VI funds. If we are successful in securing HOPE VI funds, that would enable us to expand HOPE SF by either revitalizing additional sites or adding more affordable housing to the sites that receive local funding.

With a problem this massive in scope, no single policy or funding initiative is going to be a silver bullet. So the City is actively working in the Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning process to secure additional land for new affordable housing for families and seniors, as well as encouraging privately-funded development of housing for middle-class households. We are also actively engaged in ongoing efforts to increase the State of California’s investment in housing so that we can accomplish more with our local dollars.

In total the budget will help fund 8,728 affordable and permanent supportive housing units. This would be an astonishing number in any other city in California. As with any budget, there are housing needs that are not being met, but the commitment to affordable housing is clear and shared by both the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.

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