A contractor might not be the obvious choice to spearhead a movement to help solve the affordability crisis.
“After all, we usually just have to deliver what’s on the table after a project has been developed,” Swinerton Project Manager Patrick Otellini said.
But that is exactly what Swinerton, one of the nation’s largest contractors, is trying to do. The company is leading affordable housing efforts in the Bay Area, which faces probably the most severe affordability crisis in the U.S.
While they don’t pull legislative levers or design new projects, contractors can still play an integral role by working to drive down the cost to build new affordable housing, partnering with nonprofit developers and pushing for housing policy reform.
Swinerton broke ground in March on the 1950 Mission Street Housing Project, a 163K SF affordable housing project and the first affordable housing development in San Francisco’s Mission District in 10 years. The project is being developed by BRIDGE Housing, a San Francisco-based nonprofit housing developer, and will offer 157 residences below market-rate rents to low-income and moderate-income families, including formerly homeless families.
But Swinerton’s work with BRIDGE doesn’t end once construction is complete. The contractor has also partnered with BRIDGE to raise $115K to support Proposition A, a measure on the San Francisco city ballot in 2019 that supports a $600M bond issue to support housing efforts for low-income and middle-income families, seniors and teachers in the city.
“Prop A is really the perfect example of the broad-based approach that is needed to solve the housing crisis,” Otellini said. “These are some of our most vulnerable populations, and we need to keep them in San Francisco.”
Otellini has seen the housing crisis deepen over two decades of working in the city, first at a consultancy focused on building codes, then for four years in the city government as San Francisco’s chief resilience officer. Having been an industry consultant, a public official and now a construction manager, Otellini has a sweeping view of the causes and the possible solutions to the housing crisis.
“This is not a new issue, but it’s certainly at a boiling point right now,” Otellini said. “The Bay Area has been underproducing housing for decades. This is what the consequences look like.”
Swinerton has a history of building coalitions with nonprofits and community groups to make new affordable housing, including an 81-unit development in partnership with Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin neighborhood. But Otellini said Swinerton’s main goal going forward will be to build housing as efficiently as possible, making new projects more feasible for nonprofit and for-profit developers alike.