It’s been pretty damn tough to nail down which business groups support which alternatives to the affordable housing fee.
The group collecting signatures to overturn the City Council’s decision to increase the fee it charges developers to help build subsidized housing calls itself the Jobs Coalition. It has said it proposed 20 alternatives for provide low-income housing.
That’s mostly right: Coalition members were on a task force that built a list of alternatives. A Council committee reviewed the list, but the suggestions sat on a shelf.
Six of the alternatives included fee or tax increases. Since the coalition was formed specifically to oppose a fee hike, we wanted to know which members supported those items.
That was pretty tough.
The coalition says it supports all of the alternatives put forward, but it never took a formal vote on each item, so we don’t know who supports what. When pressed, Jobs Coalition members either said they wouldn’t take a stance until one of the items was being legitimately considered, or that answering the question didn’t make any sense. One representative said his group supported every option.
Realistically, coalition members are never going to need to say where they stand on each item, since most are politically unrealistic enough to make them nonstarters. There’s security in implausibility: They can oppose the fee hike on the table by saying they favor alternatives, knowing no one’s bringing the alternatives forward.
The Housing Coalition, which runs subsidized housing programs, was part of the task force that drafted the alternatives. It says there wasn’t any consensus on the alternatives list, and the other options just weren’t realistic.
The one alternative that does stand a chance is the megabond — a large infrastructure bond that could include subsidized housing, and would be financed with a tax increase.
Prior to the Council’s vote on the fee hike, this is what coalition members most frequently offered as another way to address the city’s low-income housing needs.
Housing Commission staff has consistently said raising the development fee and pursuing an infrastructure bond are like chicken and waffles: two great tastes that taste great together.
They’ve also cautioned that the bond is hypothetical, two years out, and will require voter approval. The fee increase required only a Council majority – though now that it’s been referred to the ballot, voters will ultimately decide its fate, too.
But with Gloria spending political capital on the megabond, Jobs Coalition members might be forced to take a side; Mark Cafferty at the regional Economic Development Council already said his group is likely on board.
So where does that leave our attempts to figure out which coalition members support the six tax or fee increases to fund subsidized housing on the alternatives list?
Pretty much where it was when we started trying to get to the bottom of it. Yes, coalition members were part of a group that built an alternative list that unceremoniously died in committee. No, most of the groups haven’t taken each item through their formal approval process, so we can’t say where they stand individually.
Coalition members will likely be able to stay silent on whether they support all of those items, save the megabond. Over the next two years, they’ll have to take a side on that one.