The battle that had been predicted on the November ballot between competing proposals by Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee on the affordable-housing question has been averted. And it sounds like Kim made a reasonable compromise with the Mayor that no one should be too upset about. Rather than having two ballot measures that would just confuse everyone anyway, there will be just one, and it will be crafted to push developers to build more affordable and so-called "middle-income" housing.
There were rumors last week that some behind-the-scenes negotiation was taking place between Kim's camp and the Mayor's, and that appears to have happened. As the Chron reports, the compromise proposal will stipulate the Mayor's stated goal of building 30,000 new housing units by 2020, but it will make more concrete targets in terms of affordability.
It would specify that one-third of them should be affordable to low- and middle-income residents [3%] more than Kim's initial proposal and that half should be in reach to the middle class. It would call for an annual review of what's in the housing pipeline including a hearing at the Board of Supervisors and, if the ratio of affordable housing slips below the 30 percent threshold, the mayor would be required to make concrete proposals on how to get there.
I believe this means that 50 percent of what will get built in the future, if the measure passes, will be below market rate, with most of that being reserved for low-income residents but it would be nicer if were 83 percent (33% plus 50%), with half built for people with income ranges of $60,000 to $120,000 who are currently being squeezed out of the city, but who don't qualify for income-restricted affordable housing.
The compromise measure removes the onus on developers that Kim had proposed, which would have triggered a time-consuming bureaucratic process for individual projects whenever the 30-percent affordable goal was not being achieved citywide.
Making this ambitious proposal economically feasible for developers is the next challenge, especially after Governor Brown killed off all the redevelopment agencies in 2011. It leaves it up to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor to find equivalent tools in the city budget, which Kim says will also be a component of the ballot measure.
Kim also reserves the right to go back to the ballot box in 2015 if she and other affordable-housing advocates aren't happy with the city's progress in the coming year.