Housing crisis requires creative thinking

Waterfront luxury condos aren't the path to affordable housing.


EDITORIAL Does the construction of brand new high-end towers represent the only possible opportunity for new affordable housing in San Francisco? To hear the arguments of those bemoaning the passage of Proposition B, the ballot measure overwhelmingly approved June 3 requiring voter approval for increased building heights along the waterfront, one would think so.

Shortly after Prop. B had been decided, the Washington Post ran a headline proclaiming: "Voters in one of America's most expensive cities just came up with another way to block new housing." The idea seems to be that by making it harder for developers to build waterfront towers incorporating a small percentage of affordable units, San Francisco has sealed itself off from any new affordable housing, forever.

To buy this argument, you must resign yourself to a world where the only conceivable pathway for housing average-income people is to hope high-end developers decide to incorporate them into massive complexes for the wealthy on a narrow strip of waterfront property. Which just isn't a terribly creative solution.

Surely, alternatives exist. The city is brimming with clever people who are skilled at creative thinking and aren't afraid to dream big. Why not apply some brainpower to the housing crisis? Here are a few ideas.

• Change city law to allow people to build their own backyard cottages to rent out at affordable prices. Here we must holler at the Public Press, which is hosting a conference Fri/13 called "Hack the Housing Crisis," and recently calculated that San Francisco could theoretically add another residence to each of its 124,000 single-family lots if the city were to legalize backyard cottages. That would increase the total number of households by 33 percent; no luxury towers required.

• Make the most of public land holdings. A Budget and Legislative Analyst's report dating back to March of 2012 determined that city agencies have in their possession at least 27 underutilized "surplus" properties. Under the Administrative Code, the top priority for such lands is affordable housing, yet they go unused. Why not prioritize the transfer of these parcels for 100 percent affordable projects?

• Figure out some alternative financing schemes. Recent changes to federal law sanction crowdfunding for real-estate projects, an option that didn't previously exist. Say some affordable housing people got together, started an online fundraising campaign, bought vacant properties for conversion into affordable units, and secured public funding to make the whole thing pencil out. Real estate investors won't give a project a green light unless they're guaranteed a stupidly high return; maybe under this scenario, thousands of nontraditional investors who care about the city they live in could reap small bonuses for pitching in.

And by the way, developers are still free to propose highly affordable projects under Prop B. In fact, voters might be much happier to sign off on that idea than high-end luxury condo towers.



They do not want a class-based program for housing. If they had wanted that, they would have elected Avalos, not Lee.

Few policies are more popular than the provision of new homes, and at all price points where there is a viable demand.

BMR homes require a subsidy of 250K a unit and so will only ever be a marginal contributor.

And not everyone who works in SF needs to live in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 8:28 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 8:29 am

If that is the dumbest thing you've seen then you obviously don't read this blog much.

I agree it is funny...but it is far from being the dumbest thing that you'll read here.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 10:50 am

Sure, mint 100K new landlords and get back to me on the viability of rent control.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 9:50 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 10:02 am

Rent control applies to the age of the building in question.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 10:52 am

So for example SFH's, condo's and live-work lofts are exempt.

Oh, and the owner - any building owned by the government or a government agency is exempt.

But the topic here is new build and new build rentals are exempt from rent control.

You will never see more private people becoming landlords because rent control makes it unattractive. Transition to TIC is the way to go.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 11:19 am

In-laws would not be exempt from rent control. But new construction would still create a class of landlords who would probably vote with landlords where as homeowners they'd be less inclined to vote against rent control.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 11, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

only that that new unit is under rent control but that, because the entire building is then re-designated as a 2-unit, the existing home might also fall under rent control.

People ignore that right now because the city doesn't know about the in-law.

Not many home-owners vote for rent control because they know they might one day want to rent out their home. A much bigger factor are the increasing percentage of tenants who do not benefit from rent control and so oppose it out of envy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2014 @ 8:16 am

We just listed a few new projects on a crowdfunding platform (groundbreaker.co) and invite you to follow them if you are interested in seeing some ongoing transactions:

Posted by Guest on Jul. 04, 2014 @ 11:33 am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.