Proposition C: $260 Million in Bonds for Affordable Housing

This bond measure would provide funding to rehabilitate, buy or build affordable housing by redirecting unused bond authority San Francisco voters granted in 1992 to loan money to property owners for seismic upgrades.

If passed, the measure would cause the city to incur new debt that would be repaid through property taxes. According to the Controller’s Office, the city’s debt-management policy would direct it to issue these bonds “while maintaining the City’s property tax level to not exceed the 2006 property tax rate.”

The Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to put this initiative on the ballot.

Why is this on the ballot?

Three years after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the city passed a law requiring retrofits on unreinforced masonry buildings, generally brick, which are particularly vulnerable. That same year, 1992, voters passed a $350 million municipal bond so property owners could borrow money at low rates to retrofit their buildings.

But participation in two voluntary programs was modest, and only about $89 million in bonds were issued.

The measure’s proponents say that “hundreds of multi-unit residential buildings” are in need of various safety upgrades, threatening those who live in and around them.

What would it do and at what cost?

Rather than limiting the use of these bonds to paying for seismic upgrades, the city could issue the remaining $260.7 million in bonds to make loans to “private parties” to purchase “at-risk” multi-residential properties (three or more units) and convert them into permanent affordable housing. This would prevent those buildings from being converted to ownership properties — single family, tenancies in common or condominiums — a trend cited as exacerbating the affordability crisis.

The money could also be used for fire, seismic or other safety upgrades in those buildings.

Some of the funds would pay for a citizens’ oversight committee, which would audit bond spending and present its findings to the Board of Supervisors annually.

Each fiscal year, the city can issue $35 million in bonds for the Seismic Safety Loan Program. If Proposition C passes, the city controller says managing these loans would cost about $150,000 per year.

The office estimated that if all bonds are issued, the city’s net cost over 22 years would be $78 million. Annual property taxes would go up by $1.20 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $13.20 for a $1.1 million home, the current median price in San Francisco. The actual tax rate could differ from these projections, depending on when the bonds were sold, how many were sold and their exact valuations.

Who officially proposed it?

Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Who officially opposes it?

No opposition argument was submitted to the Department of Elections.

Vote threshold to pass

Super majority — 66 ⅔ percent.

Effective date if passed

To be determined.

Follow the money

Two committees are spending money in support of Proposition C: “Housing Forward SF, Yes on C & M, No on P & U,” and “Coalition to Save Affordable Housing, Yes on C.”

Follow the money at the San Francisco Ethics Commission: all Proposition C filings.

Endorsements: our methodology

The Public Press chose to count endorsements from organizations that backed multiple candidates or ballot measures, and that made those endorsements available online. We did not count endorsements from individuals.

If you think we missed an important organization, please tell us. We’d love to hear from you.

Tracked endorsements by organization


Written by: Noah Arroyo and Nadia Mishkin

Published: Sept. 30, 2016

Updated Oct. 3, 2016: Clarified the measures projected impact on property taxes.