Monday, April 28, 2008

SF's affordable housing shell game

You don't have to take my word for the notion that San Francisco plays a duplicitous shell game on affordable housing, which I wrote about last month:

In last Sunday's Chronicle, toward the end of Carol Lloyd's longish article on "inclusionary zoning" and affordable housing in the Bay Area, the shell game of so-called affordable housing in San Francisco is succinctly delineated:

According to Doug Shumacher at the Mayor's Office of Housing, San Francisco has attempted to build flexibility into inclusionary housing regulations and even be responsive to developers' complaints. "We offer alternative ways of complying (on-site, off-site and in-lieu fees) so that the developer can figure out what's best for them and the site," he said. Recently the city began discussing an alternative formula to the affordable housing percentage for developers who are attempting to create so-called workforce housing---homes for moderate-income buyers---not (as is the city norm) luxury product.

Not only does a developer not have to build any "affordable" housing on the actual site of the project; he can avoid building any such housing at all by making a payment to the Mayor's Office of Housing. Next time you hear Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin, Ross Mirkarimi or some other demagogue brag about some great victory for affordable housing in SF, you need to ask, Will it be built on-site, off-site, or will the developer simply pay off the Mayor's Office of Housing?



At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


To be fair, the "in-lieu fees" charged by the MOH formula are non-trivial: they are supposed to represent the cost of building an equivalent housing unit elsewhere and they are a reasonable estimate of that.

The real scandal though is the total lack of accountability or value-for-our-money on the spending of funds that go into that pot. It is well known that housing units built by the non-profit sector, which is where all the MOH funds go (at least those that aren't eaten up in the MOH bureaucracy itself), come in at around 50% higher construction cost than those built by the private sector. Much of that extra overhead goes to line the pockets or to fund the anti-growth, anti-private-sector antics of the numerous political consultants and attorneys who feed at the non-profit housing trough (you can see a parade of them most Thursday afternoons in Room 400 speaking against most of the projects on the Planning calendar: don't these guys have a job to do?). And of course a lot of it also finds it way back into the political campaigns of so-called "progressive" candidates in district elections.


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