Housing

Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.

Publications

SPUR Report Wednesday, July 21, 2004 While condominium conversion is one way of expanding home ownership, it frequently results in tenant displacement. SPUR analyzes how to promote homeownership while mitigating the negative consequences.
Article Tuesday, July 1, 2003 A new amendment to the California Environmental Quality Act adds yet another layer of difficulty to the entitlement process, threatening San Francisco’s capacity to produce infill housing.
Article Tuesday, July 1, 2003 Planners Joshua Switzky and Marshall Foster explain how new housing development can enliven the re-development of large retail sites.
Article Saturday, March 1, 2003 Everyone in San Francisco agrees we have a housing crisis. Few agree on what to do about it. One thing we can all agree on: there is not enough housing in San Francisco.
SPUR Report Friday, August 2, 2002 Proposition A has played a decisive role in expanding the production of affordable housing in San Francisco. SPUR analyzes the success of the measure and describes how it should be expanded.

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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.