Housing

Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.

Publications

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.

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?

SPUR 2012-2013 Annual Report
SPUR Report Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The majority of the world’s population now resides in cities. This presents great challenges — and great opportunities for making a better world. Our annual report explores the potential of cities to solve the problems of our time. We invite you to learn more about the work we did this year in support of this vision.

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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

THE HOUSING ELEMENT

The Housing Element is part of the City's General Plan, and helps guide housing development in the city. The Housing Element is currently in the process of being updated. SPUR advocates for including our priorities in the housing element.

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 ACTION COALITION

SPUR is a founding member of an unprecedented coalition of organizations that have united to tackle the housing crisis. The Housing Action Coalition includes members of the business community, neighborhood organizations, environmental organizations and civic groups. The Housing Action Coalition's mission is to advocate for the creation of well-designed, well-located housing that meets the needs of present and future residents of San Francisco. It works on three fronts: legislation to increase housing; public education; and a housing endorsements program.

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 2002 program and continues to play an active role in supporting 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.