Breed trying to reduce fees for affordable housing units
San Francisco Mayor London Breed is readying legislation to eliminate thousands of dollars in fees the city charges when 100 percent affordable housing projects and accessory dwelling units are built or renovated.
The ordinance — which could be introduced at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting
Tuesday meeting or next week — is
Breed’s latest effort to chip away at what she sees as the administrative forces that make it harder to build housing.
“We have to remove the barriers and bureaucracy that get in the way of building more housing,” Breed said.
“This means not only streamlining how we build housing, but also cutting fees so our dollars can go toward building more affordable housing and so more people will come forward to build in-laws, allowing us to add new rent-controlled units throughout city.”
Breed’s proposal wouldn’t expedite projects but would make them less expensive to get moving.
The ordinance would prevent the city from
moving money from one pocket to another. In San Francisco, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development is the main source of funding for affordable housing projects.
Sam Moss, executive director of the Mission Housing Development Corp., said it was “fairly ludicrous” for another city agency, the Department of Building Inspection, to then take a portion of that money back for permit reviews and inspection services, which is how the process currently works.
“Why would we do that? It’s common sense not to do that,” Moss said. “We have a crisis right now, and if we don’t exercise all the tools in the toolbox, then what are we doing? This is something I applaud,” he said of the mayor’s proposal.
The fees the inspection department assesses are proportional to the overall construction cost of a given project, said Bill Strawn, a spokesman for the agency. Larger, more complex and expensive projects generally require more time and staff resources, which translate to higher fees for those services.
Moss said the building inspection permitting fees alone don’t usually make or break new affordable housing developments or renovations of existing ones. But relief from some of the costs would allow his nonprofit to reinvest money into the early planning stages of new projects.
The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. and the Mission Economic Development Agency are just a few weeks away from breaking ground on a 143-unit, 100percent affordable housing complex at 1990 Folsom St. in the Mission District, a project the two organizations developed jointly.
According to the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the building inspection permitting fees alone for that project were about $150,000.
“I’m really enthused about this,” said TNDC Executive Director Don Falk. Lifting the building inspection fees on affordable projects “will aggregate into a fair sum of money over time that MOHCD will be able to use to fund more projects. This is a big deal.”
The ordinance is also meant to encourage the development of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, often called in-law or granny flats. In August, Breed instructed city departments to clear within six months the backlog of some 900 ADUs stuck in the approval pipeline — a deadline that will expire at the end of the month. She also mandated that the city speed up the review of new requests to build ADUs.
On top of making it easier to get an ADU built, Breed’s proposed ordinance would also make them less expensive. City officials said the building inspection permit fees for ADUs range from $7,000 to $10,000, on average.
The Department of Building Inspection collected nearly $1.4 million in permit fees from 100 percent affordable housing projects in the last fiscal year and just over $568,000 from ADUs.
Mayor London Breed speaks at the September grand opening of the 990 Pacific Ave. development in Chinatown.