Breed seeks to undermine support for new affordable housing money

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Mayor trying to convince affordable housing groups to back away from Preston’s $64 million supplemental appropriation.

Mayor London Breed is trying to undermine an effort to add more money to the city budget for social housing and rent relief and is trying to convince affordable housing providers to join her, reliable sources have told me.

The mayor is convening a meeting of the major nonprofit housing developers at 2:30 Monday afternoon. The line the Mayor’s Office is putting out: The Small Sites Acquisition Program isn’t working well right now, and it needs to be fixed before it gets any more funding. Besides, no matter what the supes do, the mayor won’t spend the money.

Mayor Breed could be driving a wedge between affordable housers and the Prop. I coalition.

The political danger, and it’s very real: This could cause a deep rift between the affordable housing community and the rest of the progressive coalition that backed Proposition I in 2020.

It puts the affordable housers in a terrible position, because they need relationships with the Mayor’s Office to function.

It also puts the mayor in the position of saying that her own office can’t run a program that’s crucial to preserving housing right now. The SSP is part of the Mayor’s Office of Housing. It offers subsidies to nonprofit housers, land trusts, and tenant groups that want to buy rent-controlled properties that have gone on the market to keep speculators from evicting the residents and flipping the buildings for profit.

The property at 3361 19th Street is a classic example: The 12-unit building that houses 20 people was sold for $6.3 million, about $525,000 a unit, far less than the cost of building new affordable apartments.

The city could have snapped it up and protected tenants from losing their homes.

Many advocates agree that the SSP is far from perfect; in fact, one of the complaints I’ve heard is that the subsidies it offers to nonprofits and tenant groups that want to buy properties aren’t high enough to make these deals work.

Which means, of course, it needs more money.

And while the law requires landlords who put their buildings up for sale to give notice to the Mayor’s Office, records I’ve obtained under the Sunshine Ordinance show that 69 of the Community Opportunity to Purchase forms have been filed in the past 24 months and the office has made little or no effort to find nonprofits to purchase any of them.

That’s hundreds of units that could be taken off the private speculative market forever.

The $64 million Preston wants to allocate would be enough to buy ten properties the size of 3361 19th Street—this year alone.

There’s a bigger issue here. When the voters passed Prop. I, in November, 2020, the money was supposed to go for exactly what Preston is urging: Rent relief and permanently affordable housing.

But Breed opposed the measure, and has consistently refused to spend the money for social housing.

In other words, this fight is in part about whether the voters will get what they were promised 18 months ago.

The supplemental allocation needs eight votes to overcome a certain mayoral veto. Seven members have already signed on, but so far two possible votes, Sups. Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman, are not supporters.

Melgar, who is the only supervisor invited to the 2:30 meeting, told me that “I have not decided whether this theatrical measure is worth the damage.” That “damage” she is talking about, she said, is “relationships” with the Mayor’s Office.

She said that the supplemental would “poke the mayor in the eye without having any way to spend the money … on the other hand people worked hard to get Prop. I passed and folks want to make a point. I get it.”

Mandelman told me that “Prop. I revenue ought to be spent entirely or at least primarily on affordable housing.” But he said supplemental appropriations should be used “to address priorities that could not have been foreseen in the original budget, and he said “There may not be he infrastructure” to spend the money “and I would want to be certain that a fair share of the program funds could and would be spent in District 8, which has the second-highest level of no-fault evictions.”

I don’t understand why Breed is so determined not to allocate that money the way its sponsors intended—except that she wants to control spending on housing and doesn’t want to work with the progressive majority on the board.

So now we have ongoing evictions, a desperate need for the city to take housing off the private market—and the mayor making a political play that could make that all much harder.