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Compromise Housing Balance Proposal Heads to November

Scott Lucas | July 25, 2014 | Story Politics

Last week, rumors were flying of behind-the-scenes negotiations to broker a compromise between rival affordable-housing ballot initiatives, one of which was backed by Mayor Ed Lee and the other by Supervisor Jane Kim. Just before the deadline for the Board to place an initiative before the voters, a compromise has been reached.

Kim's original proposal would have mandated an extra review process for building housing when the city was falling behind a 30 percent benchmark for below-market-rate housing. The new proposal will call for a full one-third of units to be affordable to low-income residents, but will eliminate the review requirement. Instead, it calls for annual monitoring of the city's housing mixture and for the mayor's office to submit proposals to achieve balance when the mixture slips below the threshold. The ballot initiative would also formally adopt the Mayor's plan to create or rehab 30,000 units by 2020.

If that all sounds a little bit complicated, it is. The big takeaways from the negotiation are these: The mayor and pro-development politicians had concerns with the Kim proposal's review mandate. That's gone, so that's a win for Lee. Kim, on the other hand, gets the satisfaction of the city committing to a high ratio of below-market developments. She and her allies said they would return to the ballot box again if they felt the city was not making enough progress on the issue.

Critically, the measure calls on the city to develop funding sources to meet the goals—but doesn't say what those are. Future funding strategies could include bonds, raising taxes or fees, increasing the amounts of money that developers of market-rate housing are required to pay for below market housing, or earmarking existing general fund money. The measure is going to voted on Tuesday at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

The measure will also appear on the same ballot on which progressives have placed what is being called an "anti-speculation tax," an idea that traces its roots to Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Short version of the compromise: Everyone saves face, Kim may have traded away more than Lee did, and it's but one arrow in an increasingly stocked quiver of policy proposals.

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