Build Baby Build: Mayor Lee Wants 30,000 More Housing Units For SF

San Francisco is taking an almost “militaristic” approach to constructing new housing, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced today.

At a press conference today inside a newly-constructed 23-unit below market rate building located at 1600 Market St., Lee called for the construction of 30,000 units in the city over the next six years.

There are currently 15 new residential development projects containing a total of 1,187 units ready for occupancy in San Francisco.

To address the city’s rising cost of housing, Lee plans for at least one-third of the new units to be permanently affordable to low and moderate-income families. Projects offering affordable and middle class housing will get priority for approval, he said.

In 2014 alone, 5,000 units are to be developed, with affordable housing taking priority, according to Lee, who said he hoped to see developers both big and small come forward to work with the city.

“Anything that is in the pipeline that has any affordable housing attached to it, gets attention immediately,” Lee said.

The plan to accelerate housing production comes from a set of recommendations released by a working group formed by the mayor.

The proposals focus on changes city departments can make immediately without legislation or further study and include administrative changes to speed review and approval of new housing and encourage housing construction, officials said. In addition, it includes measures to retain existing units and help protect rental housing.

In addition to the 30,000 new units to be made available to renters and purchasers by 2020, the city is also working to rehabilitate old units that might otherwise have been taken off the market because they did not meet housing codes.

In an effort to ease the housing crisis, the city plans to work with landlords to bring old units up to code and keep them on the market.

The below market rate project at 1600 Market St. is an example of what Lee hopes to see more of. A year and a half after construction began, residents who normally would be unable to afford housing in this central location are beginning to move into the neighborhood.

Among them is 37-year-old Monique Flambures, who along with her wife and their two-year-old and six-week-old children will be moving into a two-bedroom unit bought for less than one-third of the market value.

Flambures, a social worker at a non-profit organization in San Francisco said she has been waiting for at least five years to buy a piece of property in the city, but had been unable to find anything in her price range without the support of the below market rate ownership program operated through the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

She said her new apartment was appraised at over $700,000, but was sold to her for only $218,000.

Her family will be moving out of a $900 per month studio apartment in Lower Nob Hill. Flambures said the rent for that unit will be raised to about $1,900 after she leaves.

Without the below-market rate housing program, Flambures said she would have had to stay in her studio, which was too cramped for her growing family.

“There is no bidding that goes on,” Flambures said, adding that the process of buying a house would have been “a lot scarier,” without the assistance of the city.

The developer of the building, Brian Spiers, gave the Mayor and members of the media a tour of units in the building, which feature sound-blocking windows, extensive natural light and a modern, open floor plan.

According to Lee, a group consisting of city and non-city agencies alike will help expedite the creation of more housing.

Some of the agencies that will be working together to make housing creation a priority in San Francisco over the coming years are the city’s Planning Department, Department of Building Inspection, the Rent Board, Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Public Utilities Commission, SPUR, Small Property Owners, and the Housing Rights Committee, according to Lee.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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