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ELECTION BRIEFS: Prop P - Competitive bidding for affordable housing

"Day 36/366.....I Voted," by Flickr user Denise Cross Photography. Used under CC BY 2.0. Cropped and overlaid with text.

Prop P is one of several super technical housing policy measures on the San Francisco ballot. It would change the way the city picks developers to build affordable housing on public land.

Under Prop P the city would have to choose a developer out of at least three competing bids instead of just taking the first, and maybe only, offer it gets. The measure would also formalize what criteria is used to make a selection from the bids.

Proponents of Prop P say that the current process for choosing affordable housing developers may be based on “favored relationships instead of merit and cost.” The California Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors have raised 80% of the campaign’s total funding, which is nearly half-a-million dollars. The community advocacy group YIMBY—for Yes In My BackYard—supports Prop P because it says it will break up collusion practices among the local nonprofits and give bigger, regional developers a chance.

But most other housing advocates don’t support Prop P. They point out that nine out of the city’s last 10 requests for proposals received at least two bids. That’s why SPUR and the Council of Community Housing Organizations have both basically said, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." They also argue that sometimes there’s not much competition because there’s only one developer that’s qualified for a job, like when it comes to building supportive housing for the homeless or transitional youth housing; they say waiting for multiple bids could mean that projects get stalled indefinitely.

So here’s a simple way to look at Prop P. If you think the city’s process for building affordable housing on public land suffers from a lack of competition and transparency, vote "yes." If you think mandating competition will needlessly hinder affordable housing production, vote "no."

Citizen respondents to KALW's elections call-out contributed to this post. Our call-outs are part of our community reporting project.

Liza got her start in radio with KALW's Audio Academy. Now, she is KALW's econmy reporter and a mentor for in the KALW Audio Academy.