Monday, November 27, 2006

Where Does the Time Go?

Can it have been twenty days since my last blog entry? Phew. Perhaps, with Chris Daly winning District 6 after all I was feeling some post-election blues. But one must carry on.

My own supe, Ross Mirkarimi, has announced something he calls ROOTS legislation. (Can the allusion to Alex Haley's book about African slave ancestry be coincidental?) ROOTS is an acronym for the "Real Ownership Opportunities for Tenants Program."

The jist of it is that the City will take $1 million out of the $20 million allocated for "affordable housing projects" and apply that as grants to properties where the land is owned by a non-profit and the structure is owned as a cooperative by at least 60% of its residents. Those owner residents must earn no more than 80% of the "area median income." The residents' shares in the cooperative can never be sold at market rate. Resale restrictions in 99 year terms ensure "affordability in perpetuity."

I've seen both sides of this kind of legislation. I once met a family in Santa Barbara, where the median price of a home is $1 million. The father was a local high school teacher and the mother stayed home, caring for three children, one of whom had Downs syndrome. They lived in a lovely three bedroom town home in a central location. They paid about $150,000 for the place and if they ever chose to sell it the price would remain more or less the same and it would be available only to other local residents with similar income restrictions. It was a fabulous deal for them - the equivalent of a million dollar government subsidy allowing them to live in one of the world's most desirable communities.

On the other hand, I've seen people work that system. I met a man in San Francisco who was able to purchase a similarly subsidized home years before he became a successful engineer banking over $300,000 per year. His two bedroom condo in the Diamond Heights neighborhood had fabulous views and indoor parking, where his Porsche sat conspicuously next to his neighbors' working class automobiles. A committed bachelor, he had long ago paid off the mortgage and had no qualms about squatting in his "affordable housing" for the rest of his natural born life. Certainly this is not what the beneficent supes of the past intended when they bankrolled his building.

I think home ownership is a privilege, not a right, and a responsibility, not a gimme.

But regardless of that sentiment, I cannot fathom why my supe would draft this kind of "home ownership" legislation but vote a resounding no on ordinances promoting TICs.


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