Housing

Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.

Publications

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.

Article Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An architect involved in the building of many affordable housing units shows the real costs of building in the country’s most expensive city.

Article Tuesday, December 17, 2013

From The Year in Urbanism: In 2013, housing prices exploded in San Francisco while lagging at pre-recession levels in other parts of the region. Could some of the demand for the hottest markets be met by other, more affordable locations that are well served by regional transit?

Blog Tuesday, October 29, 2013

After a grueling recession and a long period of underbuilding, construction is making a vigorous comeback in San Francisco: The SF Planning Department reports more than 6,000 new units under construction. The backlash, however, comes in the form of rising rents— exacerbating unaffordability in what was already one of the country's least affordable cities.

Blog Tuesday, September 17, 2013

As rents and home values in San Francisco continue to explode, residents and policy makers are trying to make sense of what this means for the city. Is San Francisco an anomaly within the region or a prophecy of things to come? SPUR will co-host two forums on the housing market to explore some of this question and more.

Pages


Our Priorities for Housing

INCREASING THE SUPPLY OF HOUSING FOR ALL INCOME LEVELS

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.

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

IMPROVING THE ENTITLEMENTS PROCESS

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.

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 an improved 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 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

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 cities' middle-income housing strategies.

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 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.