Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.


Policy Letter Friday, May 23, 2014

Although Supervisor Jane Kim's proposed housing balance legislation intends to increase the amount of affordable housing in San Francisco's District 6, SPUR analysis indicates that the plan is likely to backfire — resulting in less market-rate housing, not more affordable housing.


Policy Letter Thursday, March 20, 2014

While legalizing existing in-law units (estimated at 30-50,000) will not increase the availability of housing in San Francisco, it will maintain an existing source of affordable housing, protect tenants, increase property tax revenue to the City and provide a safe and clear path to legal status for property owners. 


Blog Friday, February 21, 2014

Why not address the Bay Area’s housing crisis — caused by a surge of new jobs without an equivalent increase in new housing — at its source? Alfred Twu’s fantastical renderings imagine Silicon Valley corporate campuses like Google, Apple and Facebook as complete cities, their parking lots packed with enough housing to accommodate their entire workforces.

SPUR Report Tuesday, February 11, 2014

San Francisco is in the midst of an affordability crisis. Changing this situation will require far-reaching changes to the city’s housing policies. But there are many things we can do at the local level to make San Francisco more affordable for the people who live here. What follows are eight ideas that SPUR believes are worth pursuing.

Article Tuesday, February 11, 2014

San Francisco is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. This issue of The Urbanist takes a look at practical solutions we can begin to implement now. Excerpted from a policy proposal, these are SPUR’s best ideas for tackling this problem together, as a city, through far-reaching changes to housing policies.


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.