Closer Look at the Affordable Housing Bonus Program

Cynthia Fong | 02/05/2016
Infographic on AHBP
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The Affordable Housing Bonus Program does not incentivize development that will benefit San Francisco residents who are being pushed out. Here are three reasons why.

Infographic on Affordable Housing Bonus Program

Whether developers opt for the state-proposed bonus program or the local bonus program (the Affordable Housing Bonus Program), developers who build 70-87% luxury housing should not be rewarded. While the Affordable Housing Bonus Program is substantially better than the state-proposed bonus program, it is not enough. Developers play a critical role in developing affordable housing and healthy communities. We don’t need developments with 70-87% luxury housing. We need truly affordable housing, which will benefit all San Francisco residents. 

Infographic on Affordable Housing Bonus Program

The affordable housing that is being incentivized with the Affordable Housing Bonus Program is notoriously difficult to enforce. While 30% affordable housing will be required of developers, there is a very low chance that these BMR units will remain BMR units in perpetuity, especially when there is so much to gain by evading these rules. The Affordable Housing Bonus Program naively does not acknowledge these difficulties and instead, insists that BMR units are better than expanding rent-control protections. We need better mechanisms to hold developers and landlords accountable, and these mechanisms do not exist yet - any density bonus program should acknowledge and attempt to combat these obstacles. 

Infographic on Affordable Housing Bonus Program

In addition, the city claims that this program will not displace current San Francisco residents because developers will choose to only build on 250 soft sites out of the 30,000 parcels on the map. While developers could choose to build on the soft sites, developers could also choose to build on the other 29,750 parcels and developers would still be rewarded for doing so. If the city wanted to keep San Francisco residents in the city, the city would not provide additional incentives to evict inhabitants of any parcel on the map.


If done right, density bonus programs have the potential to be powerful tools in city planning. Developers in San Francisco should only be rewarded with incentives if they are creating housing that San Francisco residents can afford, in ways that can be enforced, and without destroying any currently inhabited sites. Otherwise, developers will be compensated for being minimally accountable for the housing crisis. San Francisco residents will continue to be pushed out of the city while developers are rewarded with increased profits.