Housing

Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.

Publications

Article Monday, March 23, 2015

San Francisco is exploring how accessory dwelling units, also known as in-law apartments, might augment its existing housing supply. Can this once marginal, almost completely invisible housing type help solve San Francisco’s current housing shortage?

Article Thursday, March 19, 2015

SPUR's latest exhibition, Urbanism From Within, explores the secondary unit in San Francisco as a housing typology. The exhibition's creative investigations provide a variety of approaches to how the Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, can be put to better use as housing in ways that do little to change the fabric of the community.

SPUR Report Wednesday, February 25, 2015

It is our great pleasure to share with you our 2015 annual report, a look at how SPUR works and the approach we bring to solving urban issues. It is a celebration of city life, as well as a look at the serious challenges cities face and the work SPUR has done this year to address them.

Blog Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last week the San Francisco Planning Commission adopted the 2014 Housing Element. SPUR supports the housing element, but we believe the city needs to do much more to address the housing deficit. At a time when San Francisco is experiencing growth in jobs and residents, the city is not planning, approving and building enough housing. We have five suggestions for how to get things moving.

Policy Letter Monday, February 16, 2015

SPUR supports the ordinance introduced by Supervisor Wiener that provides an incentive for property owners to complete the earthquake-safety retrofitting of existing housing, and at the same time enables the addition of more housing to our city's supply.

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Our priorities for Housing

INCREASING THE SUPPLY OF HOUSING FOR ALL INCOME LEVELS

In order to address San Francisco's housing crisis, SPUR works to increase the supply of housing for buyers and renters at all income levels. This means zoning for more multifamily housing, improving the entitlements process, and increasing federal, state and local resources for affordable housing development.

PROMOTING HOUSING NEAR TRANSIT

Through neighborhood planning efforts, SPUR supports increasing the supply of housing in places where it makes the most sense—within walking distance of local and regional transit nodes. In areas where San Francisco has already invested major transit resources—BART, Caltrain, Muni Metro—housing densities should be substantially increased.

IMPROVING THE ENTITLEMENTS PROCESS

The process of getting planning entitlements to build housing in San Francisco is extraordinarily difficult. People who oppose housing have been given a long list of tools to delay, postpone, shrink, or prevent development. People who need the housing do not have an equivalent set of tools to compel the housing to be built. SPUR believes that improving the entitlements process will help generate more needed housing—without compromising the public process.

REDUCING HOUSING COSTS BY RETHINKING PARKING REQUIREMENTS

Parking spaces are expensive to build, especially where land values are high. If we can find a way to build less parking—while also strengthening our tranist infrastructure—the city will see both reduced housing process and a more efficient use of urban land.

CREATING SECONDARY UNITS

One of the most "painless" ways to provide affordable housing is to promote the creation of secondary ("in law") units. These housing units—carved from a basement, garage, or placed at the back of a lot— are a uniquely affordable housing resource because 1) they do not cost public money, but are instead paid for by home owners; and 2) they do not change the physical character of a neighborhood. SPUR promotes making it legal for property owners to add this type of housing, provided it can meet building code standards for health and safety, and that it is located in an appropriate part of the city.


Ongoing projects

AFFORDABILITY BY DESIGN

Alongside all the formal programs to create affordable housing, SPUR supports making it possible to create units that cost less because they are small and efficiently designed and, in many cases, do not come with a parking space. These affordable-by-design units should become an important part of San Francisco's middle-income housing strategy.

HOUSING AND THE COMMUNITY PLANNING PROCESS

In existing neighborhoods, the only viable way to plan for serious physical change is through comprehensive neighborhood planning. Instead of just trying to maximize housing, neighborhood needs should be looked at comprehensively. Ideally, neighborhood plans will build consensus in advance about where housing should go and what it should look like. Instead of having site-by-site battles over every housing proposal, we can work out a vision of positive change, and then invite developers to come and fulfill their part of the vision. SPUR was instrumental in getting the city to undertake the Better Neighborhoods program and continues to support good planning in all city planning efforts, including Balboa ParkJapantownTreasure Island, and Hunter's Point.


Housing Updates

To get regular updates on housing activities contact SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky at skarlinsky@spur.org.