Aug 2, 2022 - News

San Francisco's new housing trails other tech hubs

Houses in the Mission

Houses in the Mission. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The city's housing construction is far behind other tech hubs like Austin, Seattle and Denver, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, citing U.S. Census data.

Why it matters: San Francisco did not keep up with demand for housing as effectively as other tech centers between 2015 and 2021, increasing the city's housing and rent prices, Joseph Gyourko, a professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told the Chronicle.

  • The result is a middle class that cannot afford the high cost of living in San Francisco, Gyourko said.

By the numbers: San Francisco had the highest median sale price among major U.S. cities — over $1.5 million — according to Redfin.

  • Rent is pricey here, too. The median monthly cost for a one-bedroom apartment — $3,100 as of July — was the second most expensive only to New York City, according to the rental site Zumper.
  • Meanwhile, there are over 7,500 people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco.

What's happening: Local opposition, geography constraints, complicated regulatory processes and high labor costs are all reasons San Francisco trails other metros in its attempts to increase housing stock, the Chronicle reports.

Details: San Francisco approved 2,861 residential units per 100,000 residents between 2015 and 2021.

  • Meanwhile, Austin OK'd 10,313 units, Seattle authorized 9,839, and Denver approved 8,274 units per 100,000 residents during that period.

The big picture: Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB-9 into law, which aimed to increase housing production by streamlining the process for a homeowner to split their lot and build another home on it, or convert a single-family home into a duplex.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors tried passing a law in June to allow homeowners to build fourplexes on their properties. On corner lots, six units would have been allowed.

  • The board narrowly passed the bill, but Mayor London Breed ultimately vetoed the measure, saying that "after many amendments, this ordinance no longer achieves the goal intended to actually produce more housing."
  • Last year, the board blocked a housing project in SoMa slated to add 495 units to the area.

What they're saying: "San Francisco's entire housing system is rotten to the core," state Sen. Scott Wiener told the SF Standard on Monday. "It needs to be dramatically changed to prioritize the creation of new housing, which is what state law requires."

What's next: By 2030, San Francisco is required by the state to build over 82,000 new housing units, which would mean the city must triple its current pace of adding around 3,500 units annually, per the Chronicle. The city will need to submit a "compliant plan" for how it intends to do so by the beginning of next year, the SF Standard reports.

  • In November, SF voters will decide on two separate housing measures — one backed by the mayor and another by Supervisor Connie Chan.
  • Both seek to streamline projects that build 100% affordable units. But Chan's proposal has higher affordable housing requirements for mixed-income buildings.
  • If both pass, the measure with the highest number of votes will prevail, the mayor's office said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the total number of residential units approved in San Francisco between 2015 and 2021 which was 2,861, not 2,900 as previously reported.


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