Our mayoral election is in full swing and many of the candidates are talking about the housing crisis, its effects on San Francisco and how they plan on changing things. The housing crisis has been center stage with its pervasive homelessness, lack of affordable housing or the debate of Senator Weiner’s SB 827 bill. So, I decided to take a look at an affordable housing program in SF, the Below Market Rate (BMR) program.
The BMR program started in 1992 and is a system that allocates a certain amount of new construction specifically for lower-income. Based on the code, if the condominium complex is larger than 10 units, the developer has a couple of options to fulfill the law. The developer can pay a fee into an affordable housing fund, it can dedicate a certain percentage of the units as BMR within the complex or it can build units at a separate location dedicated to BMR.
The BMR program is run by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). The requirements for purchase are:
First time home buyer;
Are income eligible; (See here.)
Take 6 hours of classes;
Be pre-approved for a loan;
And have enough savings for closing costs.
There is also a rental BMR program and you can read about it here.
Where Are They Located?
There are no restrictions as to where they can be located based on the MOHCD’s website. The homes can be placed anywhere in the city. The reality is, due to current zoning, the program is essentially boxed into small portions of San Francisco because of its reliance on multi-unit condominium complexes.
Another limitation of the program‘s reach is it does not purchase homes off the open market and incorporate them. As a result of these two factors, you can see from the map above, the BMR units are mainly located in the SOMA, Civic Center/Van Ness and Bayview areas. This leaves huge areas of San Francisco unable (or unwilling) to help support this important population.
Where Are We Supposed To Go?
Limiting the available land for low/moderate income homes to only a small portion of San Francisco and combining it with a severe housing crisis, you come across the current situation facing many San Francisco families. The middle to lower socio-economic classes are being actively pushed out of what was once a diverse city. With our artists, teachers, nurses, and hotel/restaurant workers unable to realistically see a future in San Francisco, you see the largest exodus of residents than any other city in the United States. We cannot let the hemmoraging of our working class continue.
The more I dive into the intricacies of past housing policies and how they are affecting the current housing dynamic, an HBO miniseries keeps popping into my mind. Show Me A Hero is about a New York town dealing with its past racist housing policies and the newly elected mayor has to deal with a court order to fix the city’s past segregation. Check out the character Mary Dorman from the mini-series. She is someone who I think we should aspire to be.
Studies have shown that when the Fair Housing Act went into effect, zoning laws started to proliferate throughout the United States. San Francisco wasn’t immune and while it has changed throughout the years, we can still see the remnants of this racism in the map above.
How Can The Assessor Help?
For the last 20 years, the office has been run by appointees or career politicians with no understanding of the office or our housing market. This has taken a toll on our city’s understanding of its housing, part of which has led us to where we are today. I think this office can do more than taxes. This office can be a part of the solution.
As a real estate appraiser working in the SF housing market as well as with the Assessor’s office for the last 8 years, I will bring an understanding of the housing market to the Assessor’s office that’s been lacking for far too long. San Francisco is a city of innovators. It's a city of people who take an old paradigm and redefine it. So, why are we still doing things the old way at the Assessor’s Office? For starters, the City Assessor’s Office has only worked for homeowners. That archaic way of doing business no longer works when over half of our residents are renters. If elected, I will work for every San Franciscan.
In times of crisis, it is up to everyone to contribute to the betterment of our society. I will bring more than the bare minimum to the office. By focusing the office on understanding our housing, the taxes generated will be more accurate and as a result, our city will be in a better position to help its citizens out of this crisis.