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SF ballot measure addresses housing crisis

October 22, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

It will take two-thirds of San Francisco voters to pass a $310 million housing ballot proposition aimed at buying, rehabilitating and preserving housing that middle income residents could afford as renters or homeowners.

Proposition A on the Nov. 3 ballot would also fund rehabilitation of public housing and public housing infrastructure.

The proposition is endorsed by Archdiocese of San Francisco Catholic Charities and the San Francisco Interfaith Council, as well as a broad range of housing activists, unions, nonprofits and business interests including the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Labor Council and San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. 

The Libertarian Party and the San Francisco Taxpayers Association oppose the measure.

The city controller estimates the highest annual cost for property owners of the general obligation bonds will be $56.24 a year in additional property taxes on a $500,000 home.

Proposition A was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors, with one supervisor, David Campos excused.

The board of directors of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Catholic Charities, which includes board president Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, unanimously voted to support Proposition A.

“Catholic Charities rarely takes public positions on ballot measures, however the housing crisis in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area directly impacts the very people Catholic Charities seeks to serve as well as the staff it relies on to provide these services,” said Jeff Bialik, Catholic Charities executive director.

The San Francisco Interfaith Council is – for the first time ever – endorsing a housing bond, also by a unanimous vote of the board of directors, said executive director Michael Pappas. The Interfaith Essential Housing Task Force, created by the council last fall, also unanimously supports Proposition A.

“We call it the missing middle,” said Pappas, who said the Interfaith Council’s support grew out of its work to combat income inequality in the City and County of San Francisco. The council, founded 26 years ago to build interfaith cooperation, includes representatives of Jewish, Baptist, Buddhist, Baha’i, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Episcopalian, Orthodox and other congregations.

Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice, who represents the archdiocese on the Essential Housing Task Force, said the bond issue addresses a “critical” need – helping teachers, firefighters, police officers and others live in the city they serve.

Mayor Ed Lee asked the Interfaith Council to back Proposition A, Pappas said. “The reason we passed it is because it is so much in keeping with the mission of this task force,” Pappas said.

In announcing its support for Proposition A, the council said, “Grounded in our varied faith traditions, we stand together in supporting an inclusive San Francisco. Housing affordability is not only an economic crisis in our city, but a shared moral and spiritual crisis.”

The council created the Interfaith Essential Housing Task Force following a September 2014 dinner meeting to discuss income inequality hosted by Archbishop Cordileone at his residence, Pappas said.

“It was from that dinner that the decision was made to form this task force and to become proactive, for the faith community to make a contributive and positive response to the housing affordability issue here in San Francisco,” Pappas said.

The SF Interfaith Essential Housing Task Force is still pursuing its initial goal of finding faith community owned property that could be used or converted to affordable rental housing for middle class residents particularly firefighters, police officers or those in the helping professions or working for nonprofits, Pappas said.

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