Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.


Policy Letter Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The San Jose Planning Commission proposed two amendments to the 2040 General Plan: 1) To increase the downtown density cap from 350 dwelling units per acre to 800 dwelling units per acre; and 2) To propose new language intended to promote job-generating land uses instead of housing.

Blog Wednesday, August 6, 2014

No one in San Francisco is arguing about whether real estate is expensive. There is, however, some debate about how to characterize the astronomical prices. Now that median home values have returned to pre-recession highs, some are compelled to ask: Are we in another housing bubble? Real estate experts Jed Kolko and Tim Cornwell spoke to this question at a recent SPUR forum.

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. 


SPUR Report Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SPUR’s Agenda for Change represents our vision for the central cities of the Bay Area. It condenses the big ideas behind our work and lays out our plan for making this vision a reality.


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.