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San Francisco REALTORS Help Mission District Residents Defeat A Crucial Housing Moratorium

By HOM Editorial Team
February 2016

The San Francisco REALTOR’s Association was key in the recent defeat of Prop. 1, The Mission Moratorium. The controversial moratorium would have instigated an 18-month pause on both new housing construction and the conversion of light industrial space into living accommodations.

Those in favor of the moratorium believed that the city needed more time to address the loss of working-class residents who have been priced out of the Mission area. Residents and REALTORS who opposed the moratorium believed that calling a halt to home development in the Mission district was not the solution. They felt that encouraging, not stopping, new construction would actually bring the city closer to solving the issue of housing affordability for all Mission residents.

“The city’s infamous affordability crisis has been brought about, in part, by decades of low housing production”, explains Jay Cheng, SFAR’s Deputy Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations.  “In the historically working-class Mission District, the situation is complicated by issues of gentrification. Ironically, last year’s proposed moratorium backed by housing activists threatened not only to further displace long-term residents, but it would actually have cut off affordable housing funding that is supported by fees from market-value housing projects in the district.” 

Thanks to an aggressive education campaign on the issue, the 4,600-member San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) was able to educate voters and explain the potentially negative consequences the moratorium would bring to the city. SFAR reached voters through direct mail, online advertising, social media, cable and broadcast television advertising, and live phone banks. They also took to the streets with door-to-door canvassing.

“We respect the street fighters!” Cheng banters. “If you don’t knock on their door and explain your position on the issue, you won’t have their respect—and you’ll hear about it.”  That’s where SFAR’s 400 volunteers made the difference, putting in 3,000 volunteer-hours reaching out to the voting public.

SFAR and its coalition defeated the Mission Moratorium with 14.4% of the vote in an election with a fairly high turn-out. Previously, SFAR had overturned a 2014 proposed transfer tax by launching an energetic, multilingual campaign and get-out-the-vote effort, that was entirely funded by REALTORS®. Cheng felt that their successful 2014 campaign helped the association to put a strong coalition in place that was critical in defeating Prop 1.

Though pleased with SFAR’s ability to help San Francisco homeowners to date, Cheng is clear that plenty of work remains ahead.  “When you’re talking about housing in San Francisco,” says Cheng, “this campaign is just the latest maneuver in an ongoing battle.  We have to keep at it, to keep solving problems and move our city forward.” 

Cheng presently serves on the Mayor’s Housing Task Force, which convenes parties on all sides of the issue to sit down together to find lasting, viable housing solutions for San Francisco.

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