Report: San Francisco continues to lose affordable housing almost as quickly as it builds it

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco continues to lose affordable housing almost as quickly as it builds it. That's according to a Housing Balance Report to be discussed at City Hall on Monday.

For the past several years, San Francisco has been on a mission to build more affordable housing -- but the battle has been more challenging than anyone predicted.

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"I would argue that, at this point in San Francisco, that's probably the number one biggest problem we have of affordability," expressed Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a nonprofit that promotes the development of permanent affordable low-income housing.

He thinks the solution lies in small site acquisitions.

For example, take The Gran Oriente Hotel in the South Park District. It was recently purchased by another nonprofit with the sole purpose of making it 100 percent affordable. That same nonprofit recently acquired two other small buildings in South Park with the same objective. That would eventually bring 106 units online.

"That's any example of getting in, finding a building where there is low income tenants, buying it before speculators buy it and then putting it under permanent nonprofit ownership," added Cohen.

Today, in all, there are 40 buildings that have been purchased. The problem is that there isn't a steady influx of money to buy and restore them.

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But recently San Francisco announced it had received an unforeseen amount of money from property taxes. Several supervisors are proposing that a portion of that money be used toward property acquisitions.

"We need to look at all the possibilities that exist for the purposes of not only preserving existing affordable housing but generating more," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Loopholes in the condo laws and owner move-in conversions are partly responsible for the loss of rent-controlled units.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee will discuss whether drastic changes in policy are needed.

"We cannot depend on private developers for this, we need to depend on our own public resources if we want to maintain a balance of diversity in San Francisco," said San Francisco Supervisor Sander Fewer, who is a member of that committee.

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