Affordable Housing Working Group Meetings Have Started

(This article was submitted by Golden Gateway Tenants Association President Bill Hannan, who attended a working group meeting on affordable housing planned for Broadway and Front streets.)

On Aug. 7, I attended a “working group” meeting hosted by theMayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) at the Broadway Family Apartments, an affordable housing project at 810 Battery Street.  Our hosts were Teresa Yanga and Joel Lipski of MOH.

Present were Bob Harrer and retired architect Solomon Pan and June Osterberg (BCNA), Lee Radner (FOGG), Jon Golinger and Stan Hays (Telegraph Hill Dwellers), Stephanie Greenburg (SoTel Neighbors), Jonee Levy (NEXT Village), and Gateway activist Ernestine Weiss.  The focus of the meeting was tenant income eligibility at the proposed affordable housing project at a half-block lot on Port property at Seawall Lot 322-1 at Front and Broadway, now used as a parking lot.

MOH confirmed that both the BFA and the new affordable housing project under construction across the intersection of Battery and Broadway are low-income housing, with maximum annual tenant incomes of 60% of Area Median Income, which is $40,750 for an individual and $58,250 for a family of four. (Both projects are/will be managed by the Chinatown Community Development Center.)

MOH confirmed that state legislation allows SWL 322-1 to be used for either 1) affordable housing; or 2) commercial use and/or market-rate housing, but with no jobs-housing linkage fee credit.  The Port is donating the land, which has been appraised at $10 million.

A City ordinance allows the property to be used for low (60% of AMI) OR moderate income housing (120% of AMI). (120% of AMI is a maximum annual income of $81,550 for an individual or $116,500 for a family of four.)  The Mayor’s Housing Trust Fund can fund this project.  There was discussion which I did not understand of a credit against a jobs-housing linkage fee.  Federal tax credits are available to help subsidize low-income affordable housing, but not moderate-income housing.  The problem for moderate-income housing is not a legal problem, but a funding problem.  The building could be built with a mix of low-income and moderate income units, but each moderate-income unit would cost more.

Joel Lipski, a retired housing official now working as a consultant, who will draft the Request for Proposals, agrees that moderate-income housing is not being built, but points out the money would need to come from somewhere.  He calculates an extra $12,500,000 would be needed to build a 114-unit building for moderate-income tenants instead of low-income tenants.  He says that charitable foundations would not contribute large amounts, and that CalPERS or CalSTERSwould require returns on investment, as would a private developer like Forest City.

Making the project all or partly moderate-income would require approval by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.  Joel believes increasing rental income would require very steep rent increases and raising the height of the building above the existing 65-foot limit, so that this site with its height restriction is not very well suited for moderate-income housing.

The neighborhood representatives attending the meeting argued that moderate-income housing is needed and that City employees such as police and firefighters should be able to live in the City.  Joel confirmed that only the lowest-paid City workers such as janitors are financially eligible for low-income housing.

Joel advised that the RFP cannot be completed in time for a Port Commission meeting on September 23.  The next working group meeting will be on August 21.