Housing

Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.

Publications

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.

Article Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Innovative design solutions can better accommodate the changing — and sometimes surprising — demographics in cities, including a rising number of single people. In New York, a third of all households are single people living alone. In San Francisco, it’s 38 percent. Why aren’t we designing housing for that demographic?

White Paper Monday, June 24, 2013

The San Francisco Housing Authority is in crisis. As a recent San Francisco legislative analyst and budget report notes, the agency had a budget short fall of $4 million in fiscal year 2011 and $2.6 million in 2012. Meanwhile, it does not have nearly enough funding to meet its capital needs. SPUR offers recommendations to help the agency become financially sustainable over the long term.

Policy Letter Thursday, February 7, 2013

Proposition C created a long-term source of funding for affordable housing, while also capping affordable housing fees. It was agreed that the fee cap could be lifted for those portions of area plans that received a significant increase in development potential. SPUR recommends three thresholds as standards for defining "significant."

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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.