MEDA Discusses Lack of Affordable Housing with San Francisco's Tech Giants

Bloomberg-BlogThe subject of affordable housing or, more specifically, the lack thereof in San Francisco, was front and center last night at Bloomberg’s Pier 3 offices on the Embarcadero, with a crowd in the hundreds attending.

A panel comprising Chief Economist Jed Kolko of Trulia, Jeff Buckley, who is Senior Advisor on Housing to Mayor Ed Lee, and Regional Director Egon Terplan of SPUR joined MEDA Homeownership Program Manager Vincent Alvarenga (photo rear, second left ) for a lively discussion. Kim-Mai Cutler (photo rear, far left) of TechCrunch moderated.

First up was a screening of a documentary short Stateless Media made about the housing crunch. This documentary showcased the depth of the crisis via stories of long-time residents being displaced because of escalating prices and evictions.

It was then time for the panel discussion around the fact that amid a high-tech boom that has added 70,000 new jobs to the city since 2010, San Francisco is embroiled in the most acute housing shortage in the nation.

Condo prices, rents and evictions have risen, as the city added fewer than 5,000 units between 2010 and 2014, even as nearly 40,000 new residents arrived in San Francisco. Many San Franciscans are worried about the loss of historic businesses, the widening income-inequality gap and the loss of lower-income and ethnic communities that have called the city home for decades.

MEDA’s Alvarenga brought up three salient points to make the crowd understand the urgency around housing for Latinos in the Mission:

  1. That there is only a five percent chance of winning the lottery for a below-market rate (BMR) unit in San Francisco.
  2. That Maximus’ proposed development at the 16th Street BART Plaza–a project that symbolizes the issue of developments in the pipeline not meeting the Mission’s housing needs–will cast a shadow on neighboring Marshall Elementary School’s playground, will not have enough affordable rental units and will displace family legacy.
 While Maximus has stated an interest in adding BMR units, it is not official, with the property still slated as 100 percent market rate at this time. 
The means the property is not in the inclusionary housing pipeline, so it is as if the affordable units do or will not exist.
  3. That MEDA has seen many of its clients have to move from the Mission because of a paucity of affordable housing options for Latino working-class families, displacing families from the Mission in general.

Tonight was a much-needed event in the tech community. Much more needs to be addressed. There is a definite urgency to the situation, although a long-range planned is what is merited.

MEDA hopes that as tech hears the stories of what is happening around them they will be compelled to work together on the solutions for San Francisco’s real estate crisis.