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    Affordable Housing Wins Big in the Election

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    With the average rent for a two-bedroom in San Francisco topping $4,400 a month, the city has become increasingly unaffordable for working families and young adults. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates a minimum-wage employee would need to work 218 hours a week to afford that apartment. This is astronomical and contributes to San Francisco’s high homeless population of 7,500, with hundreds more living on the edge. It is not acceptable to have so many people literally just one unexpected expense away from living on the streets.

    Simply put, we need more housing to address the current shortage. As long as the supply can’t meet the demand, rents will continue to be inflated. Fortunately, California voters are just as concerned about housing prices and approved Propositions 1 and 2 earlier this month. Both measures were placed on the ballot by the Legislature to kick-start more affordable housing construction for people priced out of today’s market.

    Prop 1 authorizes the state to borrow $4 billion to build about 50,000 affordable housing units statewide for veterans, working families, seniors, people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. The benefits to the LGBTQ community will be considerable, given the growing number of aging community members and the unfortunate fact that 30% of San Francisco’s homeless population identifies as LGBTQ.

    The largest share of bond funds will be spent on the Multifamily Housing Program for the rehabilitation or construction of rental units for California households earning up to 60% of the area’s medium income, which in San Francisco is about $71,000. Some of the money is also earmarked for high density housing near transit stations. In addition, Prop 1 funds will help to boost homeownership. The state will be able to offer more loans to veterans through the CalVet Home Loan Program and will help low to moderate-income buyers with down payments through the Home Purchase Assistance Program. Homeownership is good for communities, because it provides stability and leads to more engaged residents working together to solve shared problems.

    The other measure, Prop 2, is even more targeted, and as Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I was proud to author legislation that put the question before voters. Since 2005, the state has taxed millionaires an extra 1% to fund mental health treatment services. But it’s not enough. An audit of the San Francisco Department of Public Health Behavioral Health Services found that only 5% of patients accounted for more than half of the city’s urgent and emergency services visits. Most of these patients had behavioral health diagnoses and many were homeless, thereby in need of more access to medically-intensive supportive housing and case management services to get better.

    Supportive housing, which combines affordable housing with social and health services, is one of the most effective ways to help the chronically homeless. With the approval of Prop 2, voters empowered the state to direct $2 billion of the existing “millionaire’s tax” revenue to the No Place Like Home Program that offers permanent supportive housing for those who suffer from mental illness. That gives those in need shelter and care and frees up other state funds for more general affordable housing demands.

    Approving the combined $6 billion for affordable housing is the right call by voters. Just look at what recently happened with our newest below-market units at Natalie Gubb Commons in SOMA. The project received 6,580 applications for 120 spots. Clearly, there’s a demand for more. State investment in affordable housing helps to ensure that San Francisco and other communities throughout California will continue to be inclusive and made up of residents from all income levels, and not just high earners. I will continue to fight for more affordable housing funding during my next term in the Legislature.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.