Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.


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.

Policy Letter Monday, February 9, 2015

SPUR supports the adoption of San Francisco's 2014-2022 Housing Element in order to allow many of the Mayor's Housing Work Group's pending policy initiatives to move forward. However, SPUR maintains that the City can do more to address the housing deficit.

Article Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Housing affordability is the No. 1 problem in San Francisco and, increasingly, in the other cities of the region. SPUR's approach proceeds from two primary ideas: try many different solutions, and think at the regional scale while acting at the local scale. We take a look at progress made so far — and the work still left to do.

White Paper Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How many housing units in San Francisco are not occupied by a permanent resident? And do such units further constrain the city's tight housing market and drive up housing prices? While it's very difficult to exactly quantify the number of non-primary residences in San Francisco, we provide a rough picture of how many there are and how SF compares to other cities on this issue.


Our Priorities for Housing


In order to address the Bay Area'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.


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 cities have already invested major transit resources — near BART, Caltrain, Muni Metro, etc. — housing densities should be substantially increased.


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


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 an improved housing process and a more efficient use of urban land.


One of the most painless ways to provide affordable housing is to promote the creation of secondary or "in-law" units. These housing units — carved from a basement or garage, or placed at the back of a lot — are a uniquely affordable housing resource because they do not cost public money but are paid for by home owners, and because 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 neighborhood.

Ongoing projects


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 cities' middle-income housing strategies.


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 San Francisco to undertake the Better Neighborhoods program and continues to support good planning in all city planning efforts.

Housing Updates

To get regular updates on housing activities contact Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky at skarlinsky@spur.org or Community Planning Director Kristy Wang at kwang@spur.org.