Courtesy of MEDA. The proposed project at 2205 Mission St., which is earmarked for teacher housing.

The city expects to raise at least $136 million from Proposition I for social housing this fiscal year, and there’s no shortage of ideas on how to spend it. 

On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee heard from a number of housing groups that want a slice of that $136 million pie to fund proposals that include teacher housing in the Mission and improvements to Single-Room Occupancy rooms. 

But all of this depends on Mayor London Breed deciding to spend that money. Last year, she refused to spend $64 million in Proposition I revenue on the city’s Small Sites preservation program, even though the Board of Supervisors approved the expenditure. To date, it has not been spent. 

The money comes from the 2020 ballot measure, Prop. I, which doubled the real-estate transfer tax on properties worth more than $10 million. 

Supervisor Dean Preston, who sponsored the proposition, envisioned the pot of money would fund social housing; a model in which a residential property is owned by the city, nonprofits, or a group of residents. The Small Sites program, for example, buys existing buildings filled with low-income tenants to keep those tenants in place. Since 2014, it has added 53 buildings and preserved the affordability of 563 units

The Controller estimated $170 million will be raised this year from Proposition I revenue, including $136 million for social housing. At a hearing on Wednesday,  the Housing Stability Fund Oversight Board presented community-led social housing proposals to recommend to the supervisors and the mayor.

The oversight board is composed of 11 members, including one appointed by the mayor’s office and 10 by the supervisors. 

Several members represent housing organizations like San Francisco Community Land Trust, Council of Community Housing Organizations, and Tenants Together, which Preston founded. 

Over the past few months, the board conducted meetings, considered dozens of community proposals and ultimately recommended that $60 million go for land acquisition, $12 million for educator housing, $15 million for upgrades to public housing, $12 million for elevator upgrades for Single-Room Occupancy buildings, and more.

Preston said acquisitions are, rightly, the main chunk of the oversight board’s recommendations.

“At the end of the day, you have to have the property to create the housing there,” Preston said. 

Different groups that participated in the process offered specific ideas for each tranche of money. The  Mission Economic Development Agency and the United Educators of San Francisco suggested converting a shovel-ready property at 18th and Mission streets into affordable housing for educators. 

Hope Williams, from the San Francisco Community Land Trust, encouraged investments that help build home-ownership opportunities and wealth among communities of color. “The people who are being forced out of our city are the people that look like me,” said Williams, who is Black. “I know that these housing models work. We need the funding to strengthen the capacity.”

Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior and Disability Action, wants some of the funds to be used for subsidies for senior housing. She also advocated for disabled tenants. Other monies should be spent on elevator repairs in Single Room Occupancy units, she said at the hearing. 

“The elevators are a mess, and we desperately need to not only fix, but we need to replace, elevators in places like Chinatown and the Mission where SROs are unlikely to have elevators at all,” Lehman said. “It’s really time to invest.” 

The oversight board also recommended budgeting $6 million for the city to investigate new “innovative” housing solutions. Shanti Singh, a legislative director for Tenants Together and the chair of the oversight board, said research is integral to learning what’s feasible in San Francisco. 

States like Hawaii and Maryland are embracing social housing, and a new state bill suggests California may, too. “It just doesn’t matter unless you act on it. To do something that can be such an ambitious housing program, there are a lot of nuts and bolts,” Singh said. 

Still, the mayor controls the purse strings. Preston said he had a conversation with Breed about social housing proposals in earlier stages of this budget’s process to avoid another stalemate. “She did not make any commitments to fund the recommendations, but she also did not rule any out,” Preston said. 

At the hearing, Preston concluded by “strongly urging” the Mayor’s Office to reflect the oversight boards’ recommendations in the budget. “I really hope that one area where political or personal differences don’t stand in the way of delivering the housing that we need,” he said. 

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Maybe if they stopped building luxury housing for purposes of affordable housing, more people would support the housing nonprofits. MEDA spent the past decade crying about “luxury” housing and now the new building they want to build looks like all of the other market rate “luxury” buildings that have popped up in the Mission.

    It’s also a monster relative to other buildings.

    1. The proposal looks pretty decent actually, windows set back from the facade and all. Go check out what’s been filed with Planning for Mariposa/Penssylvania at the old Center Hardware location. That’s what non-lux looks like – you prefer that?

    2. Calling regular non-subsidized housing “luxury” is a lie, every bit as much as Trump lies. It’s just what the community all together has decided housing is worth and it is affordable to the buyers and sellers in the community. Your deceptive “affordable” housing is just virtue signaling window dressing for a few special housing windfall winners, as only a token few will ever get the true luxury of housing, financed by other people, in the high demand city of San Francisco. Subsidized housing in San Francisco is the real “luxury”, not housing people actually have to pay for themselves.

      1. Bravo, Tina, nailed it in one.

        In some self-serving circles, anything that is not subsidized is “luxury”. What a joke. Some market rate units are less than 1,000 square feet. Not luxurious by any reasonable standard

  2. Voting for measures that can be hijacked by the Mayor is not democracy. In any other arena, it would be called fraud.

    1. The solution is simple. Phrase the proposition to mandate the specific use of the funds for the stated purpose, and accept that you need a 2/3 majority to pass. The sponsors of Prop I didn’t do that. Shame on them.

  3. Isn’t the problem that Prop I should have had a 2/3 requirement to pass if the funds were targeted for a specific thing. Whereas the proposition was structured only needing 50% plus 1. The legal effect of that is that it gets added to the general fund and the mayor does not have to designate it for affordable housing.

    The supporters of this Prop lacked the confidence that it would win by 2/3 and so took the easy way out, meaning they cannot complain legitimately. You cannot have it both ways i.e. both designate its use and only need 50% plus 1 to win!

  4. I think in the headline you mean “disburse”?

    Mayor Breed is terribly wrong-headed about housing and the unhoused. It is so painful and tarnishing.