A slew of housing experts each sped through 20 slides lasting 20 seconds apiece Tuesday night in a search for solutions to the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco. Not all of their ideas were entirely new, but some of the presenters fleshed out concepts that have been floating around San Francisco political and development circles. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
While San Francisco’s 350 private corporate buses take thousands of well-off tech employees to work in Silicon Valley every morning, and home to their urban apartments and flats every evening, the service gap in late-night public transportation leaves many of the city’s service workers without a ride to their homes far out of town. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
Nearly 40% of subsidized units cited already exist
In his plan calling for 30,000 units of “new and rehabilitated” housing over six years, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee left many news organizations with the incorrect impression that one-third of those apartments would be additional units that most city residents could afford. Details of the plan actually show that a large fraction of the total consists of already-occupied public housing units that would be repaired, but add little the city’s overall affordable housing stock. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
San Francisco could boost its housing stock by as much as one-third — if only homeowners were allowed to build tiny, freestanding cottages in their backyards. This would satisfy the city’s policy of “infill development,” putting more housing on existing underutilized land. But first, the city would have to tweak existing building regulations tailored to mid-20th century lifestyles. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and, very often, good urban planning policy ideas too. San Francisco and the Bay Area are no strangers to that road. Yet as talk of a housing crisis grows, the region may need a new attitude more than new ideas to avoid the mistakes of the past. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
San Francisco has become the epicenter of the Bay Area’s affordability crisis, with high-tech corporations moving in, rents climbing skyward, and despair and evictions sweeping through long-established but lower-income communities. Yet for the sold-out crowd of 140 housing-policy visionaries, advocates, experts and activists at Hack the Housing Crisis, San Francisco’s struggle to house its citizens is an opportunity to build a better city for all. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
Two Bay Area designers are re-imagining the home as a simple consumer good. If they and other entrepreneurs are successful, San Francisco’s marginal land — including parking spaces — could theoretically be retrofitted to accommodate hundreds or thousands of these barebones, movable living spaces. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
City residents, advocates and experts gathered at “Hack the Housing Crisis” to come up with ways to make San Francisco more affordable and create space for new tenants. Possible solutions included building portable houses and creating social media websites where renters and landlords could connect. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
San Francisco is not the only city in a housing crisis. The multi-year plan proposed by Mayor Ed Lee bears some similarities to those proposed by Bill de Blasio, the new mayor of New York, where even last week a major initiative advanced to fix older affordable buildings. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
What if San Francisco took another stab at promoting live-work lofts by effectively targeting actual working artists? With enough funding, nonprofit organizations could house them in old, retrofitted commercial properties. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
Nonprofit housing developers across the city say they have been waiting for years to begin building more than 800 planned, permanently affordable homes. A housing bond could get those projects off the ground, but politicians have other priorities. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
In Seattle, developers are racing to build miniature studios that average 150 square feet to absorb skyrocketing housing demand from young professionals. San Francisco could follow that example — but first, it would have to strike down a law passed two years ago. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
By extending rent-control status to all existing apartments, like it did 35 years ago, the city could save the residents of as many as 50,000 apartments from today’s ballooning rental costs. But doing so might not make the city more affordable for the most economically vulnerable residents. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
If San Francisco adhered strictly to state laws that grant residential developers considerable flexibility, it could increase housing density in upcoming projects by up to 35 percent. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
Cooperative housing managed by nonprofit organizations could substantially increase the availability of affordable housing in San Francisco, but progress has been stimied for years by lack of capital to buy buildings. Now policymakers in the city and at the state capital are devising ways to help them grow. Part of a special report on solutions for housing affordability.
New housing construction is blazing through the city’s eastern side, but not the west. Why? Residents say existing public transit is too poor to accommodate denser housing, which might also disrupt the neighborhood’s character. But minor tweaks to zoning regulations could add thousands of new apartments, and many would be priced below the market rate.
Business journalist David Cay Johnston pitches the idea of building high-density apartment buildings at Candlestick Park instead of planned retail, offices and hotels. He says “Manhattanizing” the area could bring down housing prices across the city by adding 14,000 new units of housing.