Voters Say Yes to Educator Housing in San Francisco. $600 Million Affordable Housing Bond Likely to Pass

A Victorian home stands next to the San Francisco skyline on Feb. 18, 2014, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly gave the city permission to build housing projects for teachers and educators on publicly owned land, while a $600 million affordable housing bond, the largest in the city’s history, leads with a narrow margin.

Proposition A, a plan to increase property taxes to fund affordable housing is leading with a narrow margin as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night. City officials estimate the bond will produce approximately 2,800 units of affordable housing. That money will be divided among senior, low-income and middle-income housing, including some funding to support housing projects for educators.

"It's a big bond. It's a lot of money and some people may have been asking themselves is this going to be meaningful to me," said Matthias Mormino, policy analyst for Chinatown Community Development Center, an affordable housing development group in San Francisco. "But being able to expand these affordable housing projects geographically in other neighborhoods is exciting."

This is the largest affordable housing bond that San Francisco has put on the ballot. The city's last affordable housing bond was passed in 2015 — the same year Mayor Ed Lee was reelected — and cashed in at $310 million. That bond produced about 1,600 units of affordable housing, with $100 million going toward 548 low-income housing units.

Chart from SF government on housing built with a 2015 affordable housing bond of $310 million.
This image is from a 2019 General Obligation Affordable Housing Bond Report by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Before that, the last successful bond measure solely for affordable housing was passed in 1996. San Franciscans voted down affordable housing bond measures in 2002 for $250 million and in 2004 for $200 million. Voters three years ago approved reappropriating some bond money from a measure that was first passed in 1992 to buy housing units that needed earthquake retrofits.

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Sherry Williams, executive director of One Treasure Island, which helps build affordable housing on the island, remembers the $100 million bond in 1996. “Without that bond we wouldn’t have been able to renovate our units out here,” she said.

Williams said a piece of this year’s $600 million bond will help fund a 138-unit housing project for low-income and homeless people on Treasure Island that’s projected to break ground in February 2021.

“There are direct consequences from having these bonds passed,” Williams said.

Voters also passed Proposition E, a rezoning measure that allows educator housing projects and developments that are 100% affordable housing to be built on publicly owned lands. Teachers, classroom aides and staff who work for the San Francisco Unified School District or City College of San Francisco would be eligible to move into the future housing developments.

The measure also allows qualifying housing projects slated for parcels of land that are at least 10,000 square feet and zoned for residential use to bypass certain permits and approvals, essentially expediting the building process.

San Francisco city housing officials have estimated it costs about $700,000 to build one unit of housing and about five years to do it.

New housing construction in San Francisco has averaged 1,900 units per year since 1990, according to a report from the city's planning department. But in recent years, that number has gone up. Still, the influx of workers with high-wage jobs competing for housing continues to challenge affordability for residents.

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