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Twitter tax breaks could mean tough breaks for mid-Market's low income residents

A payroll tax exemption for Twitter that was preliminarily approved Tuesday night by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on a 8 - 3 vote has unleashed a flurry of public debate, media commentary and even a pair of dueling petitions over the revitalization of mid-Market Street in San Francisco.

Touted as a way to keep jobs and the growing tech company Twitter in San Francisco, the SF Public Press is investigating how providing a six year payroll tax exemption, which includes eliminating taxes on the anticipated employee stock options when the company goes public, could have unintended consequences on low-income housing units and residents living in the area.

With thousands of new workers expected to flood mid-Market as Twitter and other businesses move in, employees will likely look for affordable housing close to where they work, increasing property values in one of the last low-income neighborhoods downtown — a boon for residential landlords that currently rent studio apartments for an average of around $1,000.

Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Randy Shaw, a proponent of the tax breaks, posed the question of “whether neighborhoods must tolerate open drug dealing and vacant storefronts in order to avoid ‘gentrification’”, today on his news site BeyondChron, and said that the tax exemption would benefit low-income residents who live in many of his own buildings without displacing them because of San Francisco’s “many anti-displacement laws.”

Still, inflated housing costs in buildings without designated low-income housing would lie in stark contrast to the SRO’s and limited commercial use buildings that will remain.

Among the listed benefits of the tax exemptions, the promise to lure a supermarket to the neighborhood where there currently is none, could be one of the few that actually serve current residents. Yet increased police patrols, upscale retailers and commercial spaces targeted to serve young spenders could alienate low-income residents that do not fit the “young, artsy, and urban” demographic targeted in the city’s proposal.

Read the city’s proposal here