San Francisco mayor unveils $94 million affordable housing plan

SAN FRANCISCO, June 2 Mon Jun 2, 2014 5:40pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO, June 2 (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee unveiled a $94 million initiative on Monday to expand affordable housing over the next two years in the city's latest bid to address surging home prices, rental rates and evictions.

A resurgent San Francisco Bay-area economy, led by a booming high-tech industry and an influx of Silicon Valley workers, has driven up housing costs throughout the city, pricing low- and modest-income residents out of the market.

Lee set a goal earlier this year of making 30,000 newly built or rehabilitated homes available by 2020, with at least one-third of those units made permanently affordable to poor and middle-class families.

The program he announced on Monday as part of his annual municipal budget plan calls for $44 million from the city's housing trust fund and $50 million in borrowed funds to start construction, including the rehabilitation of nearly 3,500 units.

"I recognize that many San Franciscans are feeling anxiety about how to make a living and a life in this great city," Lee said in an executive summary to the proposal. "No matter who I talk to, the No. 1 issue I hear about is the affordability of housing in San Francisco."

The mayor's budget proposal requires approval by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Lee's budget also calls for $51 million to help poor residents achieve greater self-sufficiency, including increased investments in programs aimed specifically at preventing evictions and homelessness.

In April, the Board of Supervisors voted to require landlords evicting tenants from rent-controlled units to subsidize those residents' future rent for two years after they move.

In addition, long-term tenants evicted through the Ellis Act, a California law allowing property owners to force out residents of a building removed from the rental market, were given preference in city-sponsored affordable housing developments.

The Board of Supervisors also approved a measure to bring thousands of additional housing units onto the market by legalizing garages converted to living space or semi-detached dwellings for residential home sales.

In March, the city increased down-payment assistance for first-time home buyers of modest means.

Growth in the tech industry has helped lift the median Bay-area home price to just under $1 million, with rental units averaging $3,400 per month, according to the city controller's office. (Editing by Steve Gorman and Will Dunham)

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