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S.F. Voters to Decide on Airbnb Rentals, Mission Moratorium and Other Housing Measures

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Airbnb has contributed some $8 million to the opposition campaign for Prop F, which seeks to restrict short-term housing rentals. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

San Francisco voters will be asked to decide on a number of ballot measures this fall pertaining to the city’s affordable housing crisis. Absentee voting starts Monday, kicking off the final stretch of the campaign season before the Nov. 3 election.

Here’s a rundown of several housing-related proposals. Visit the San Francisco Department of Elections website for more detailed information on ballot measures and local candidates.

Proposition A: Affordable Housing Bond

Proposition A is a $310 million general obligation bond that’s being floated to finance the construction or rehabilitation of 30,000 affordable housing units. The bond measure requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass, and could set a precedent for other Bay Area counties contending with their own housing shortages.

With a supercharged rental market that ranks as the most expensive nationwide and even compares with pricey neighborhoods internationally, there's massive unmet need for affordable housing throughout the Bay Area.

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“It is not unusual to get three, four, even 5,000 applicants for a 50- or 70-unit apartment building when it opens,” Doug Shoemaker, president of affordable housing developer Mercy Housing California, said in an interview with KQED News. “We need to demonstrate to people that there are solutions to these problems, and the bond is a huge part of it.”

Sponsored by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and backed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, the measure has widespread support and has won endorsements from the San Francisco Democratic Party and the San Francisco Chronicle, which noted that while it would barely put a dent in the city’s affordable housing crisis, Prop. A is nevertheless “a step in the right direction.” At the same time, the San Francisco Green Party recommends a “no” vote on the measure, on the grounds that it has “few restrictions and little oversight on what the money will be spent on.”

Proposition F: Restricting Short-Term Rentals

San Francisco-based Airbnb has spent more than $8 million fighting Proposition F, a measure backed by tenants rights groups who point to the proliferation of short-term rentals as a contributing factor to the loss of affordable housing.

Prop. F  seeks to impose tougher restrictions on short-term rentals by limiting them to 75 days per year across the board, requiring property owners to provide proof that they authorize short-term rentals and imposing provisions to ensure that private rentals are paying hotel taxes and complying with city codes, among other things.

On its website and in ad campaigns, meanwhile, Airbnb has argued that "home sharing and Airbnb are helping to fight economic inequality by giving every resident the opportunity to turn their apartment or home into an economic asset."

Airbnb has been the target of protests, such as the one planned for Oct. 1, when activists plan to lead a march around North Beach “to multiple formerly rent-controlled units in the area and protest evictions of their former tenants and their conversion into tourist rentals via Airbnb, VRBO, and the like,” according to a Facebook event announcement.

Regulation of short-term rentals has long been a contentious issue, which KQED has covered extensively.

City law already limits short-term rentals in an effort to prohibit the conversion of rental housing to tourist use. But a hearing at Wednesday's Budget and Finance Committee, called by Supervisor David Campos, seeks to determine whether the existing ordinance and newly created enforcement agency have been effective at collecting taxes from private short-term rentals and enforcing the existing law.

Proposition I: Mission Moratorium

Proposition I seeks to impose a temporary moratorium on luxury housing construction in San Francisco’s Mission District for at least 18 months, halting the construction of market rate housing and any project larger than five units. It would also develop a stabilization plan to preserve land that could be used for affordable housing in the area, which has been impacted by gentrification and displacement of long-time residents.

The proposal was introduced by Campos. The Mission District supervisor squared off against Supervisor Scott Wiener earlier this year on KQED Forum, drawing a lively response from listeners.

“Our strategy says to protect, to preserve the limited amount of land, let’s do a pause on luxury housing so that the city can actually buy these parcels and begin to build as quickly as possible,” Campos said during that program.

But Wiener shot back: “If we don’t build the new housing, we’re going to see the pressure cooker in the Mission become an even worse pressure cooker.”

A report by San Francisco’s Office of Economic Analysis determined that a temporary moratorium would not prevent the displacement of current residents.

Proponents of the measure, meanwhile, say it's needed in order to allow time to plan for more affordable-housing construction. Supporters recently made their pitch with an animated video by mayoral candidate Stuart Schuffman (aka Broke Ass Stuart),  explaining his support for the measure:

Stephanie Martin Taylor and Marisa Lagos contributed to this report.

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