The real estate industry may have won round one of the antispeculation battle, but affordable housing advocates are vowing to go back to the ballot with a new measure next year.
On Tuesday, San Francisco voters shot down Proposition G, an initiative that would have imposed a hefty transfer tax on multiunit investment properties sold within five years of their purchase. The measure failed by 9 percentage points — 54 percent to 45 percent.
Quintin Mecke, campaign manager of the Yes on G campaign, said the proposition was successful in “putting the spotlight on the city’s serious housing crisis, and we will press on with the fight to stop speculation and displacement.”
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“Nobody likes to lose, but I think we were pretty happy with what happened,” Mecke said. “We are committed to coming back to the ballot until we address speculation and evictions.”
The antispeculation ballot measure would have imposed a real estate transfer tax on any short-term flip — defined as a property between two and 30 units that is bought and sold within less than five years. If the resale fell within one year of the purchase, the tax would have been 24 percent of the resale price. The tax would have declined over the next four years. After five years, the tax would have disappeared.
Proponents of the tax hoped it would keep speculators from flipping apartment buildings, especially rent-controlled units that are part of the shrinking affordable housing supply in San Francisco. The No on G forces argued the measure punished ordinary homeowners who need to sell their properties in a hurry because of illness, job relocation or the like.
“I think San Francisco voters recognize that there is a real housing crisis, but when voters looked at Prop. G they realized that it was overtly politically driven policy and was not a solution for the issues we faced,” said Jay Cheng, who heads up government relations for the San Francisco Association of Realtors.
Political consultant David Latterman said if Prop. G had been more moderate, it might have fared better.
“It was written a little too aggressively,” he said. “Had it been a little more chill, it would have had a much better chance of passing.”
Several people involved in the Yes on G campaign acknowledged that the measure might have succeeded had it been less sweeping. Some opponents of the measure objected to the fact that it included two-unit buildings, including homes with in-law units. Others thought the tax rate — 24 percent of total purchase price — was too steep.
“We picked two units because there were two-unit buildings being Ellis Acted,” Mecke said, referring to the law that allows landlords to remove rental properties, often rent controlled, from the market. “If we can build a broader coalition by tweaking that, it’s something we will look at.”
Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, said that the Yes on G campaign energized a younger generation of voters not historically involved in San Francisco politics.
“We saw a lot of young folks get involved, even quite a few tech workers who feel that there needs to be a better balance of housing, that not everything should be gentrified,” Fong said.
If a new antispeculation tax is put on the ballot, it will likely not be the only affordable housing measure on the ballot. Mayor Ed Lee, who announced Thursday that he will seek re-election, has assembled a working group to look at a number of affordable housing options, including a possible housing bond. Cheng said the Realtors Association would “come to the table” on a housing bond.
mayor lee has assembled a working group to look at a number of affordable housing options, including a possible housing bond
“It would depend on the details and how it was structured, but a housing bond is something we would come to the table on,” Cheng said. “There are a lot of opportunities for housing to be built. I, for one, reject the view that we have done all we can.”
J.K. Dineen is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sfjkdineen