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Mayor Lee Targets SF Housing Market ‘Crisis’ In State Of City Address

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A sign advertising apartments for rent is displayed in front of an apartment complex July 8, 2009 in San Francisco, California. As the economy continues to falter, vacancy rates for U.S. apartments have spiked to a twenty two year high of 7.5 percent, just short of the record high of 7.8 percent set in 1986. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A sign advertising apartments for rent is displayed in front of an apartment complex in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Friday gave his annual State of the City address and laid out a plan to create 30,000 new and rehabilitated homes in the city by 2020, promising that a third of those would be affordable to low- and moderate-income families.

Lee called skyrocketing rents and a limited housing market a “crisis” for the city that “threatens to choke off our economic growth and prosperity for the future.”

He noted that the economic growth has reduced San Francisco’s unemployment rate from 9.5 to 5.2 percent since he took office in 2011.

“What our housing crisis demands is real solutions and a shared vision,” Lee said outside the former naval shipyard in the city’s Hunters Point neighborhood, where an $8 billion project to construct 12,000 new residential units got started last June after decades of planning and cleanup.

The mayor characterized some of the backlash against rising rents “scapegoating,” including protests of commuter shuttle buses that take residents from San Francisco to jobs at tech companies like Google on the Peninsula.

“They speak of it remarkably only in terms of the negative; perhaps the first time in history that the creation of too many good jobs has been criticized,” he said.

He closed his speech by saying the story of San Francisco is one of rapid spurts of growth. “Each new wave of newcomers has come with a degree of tension.”

Lee laid out a seven-point plan that he said can keep San Francisco affordable to families in the decades to come.

The plan included promises to do more to protect residents from eviction and displacement as landlords may try to push long-term renters out of rent-controlled units.

Lee also touted recent efforts by the city to improve and rebuild public housing units, including the acquisition of $6.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Alice Griffith housing complex and neighboring area.

Lee said he will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to ask for more flexibility in how the city uses that funding.

Lee advocated for building more housing faster, including prioritizing construction of affordable housing, but also building market-rate housing so more affluent residents don’t face a continually tight market and drive rents up.

“When it comes to housing construction, we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect better results,” Lee said.

He said that the construction of new housing must generally be easier, as obstacles in the planning stages can slow and stop construction of new units.

In his speech, Lee also proposed raising the city’s minimum wage, expanding funding to public schools to a level “never before seen in history,” raising the city’s vehicle registration fee for improvements to bus fleets, streetcars and roads, ending Sunday parking meter fees, expanding the city’s police force and improving services for the city’s homeless population.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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