Our goal: Make it affordable to live here.


Article Saturday, August 8, 2009 The desire of President Obama’s new administration and leaders in Congress to undertake serious steps to stem global warming may provide a singular opportunity to make more visible the role rental housing can play in making our country’s infrastructure greener.
Blog Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To the litany of statistics bearing out the severity of this recession, add one more: the number of Americans who moved between March 2008 and March 2009 was just 35.2 million, the lowest total in 47 years – and back in 1962, there were 120 million fewer Americans.

Article Friday, August 1, 2008 San Francisco's need for housing for the homeless, rental housing and affordable housing for purchase far outstrips the available supply. Toronto shares many of the same problems.
SPUR Report Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Affordable "by design" units cost less to produce because they are small, efficiently designed and do not come with a parking space. Could this be a new way to produce middle-income housing without using public subsidy?

SPUR Report Thursday, June 1, 2006

San Francisco is one of the world's great cities, not just because of its beauty but because of its culture. That culture is threatened directly by the high cost of housing. Unless we do something, we will lose our artists, our progressive politics, our immigrants and our young people. This second edition of our housing strategy updates the policy reports that define SPUR's housing agenda.


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.