"Lots of New Housing in San Francisco, but It’s Still Not Enough"
Residential construction in San Francisco is growing at a torrid pace, but concerns continue about whether the city is getting enough of the housing it needs the most.
The 3,454 new residences built last year are 48 percent more than in 2013 and 73 percent higher than the city’s 10-year average of 1,992 new units, according to San Francisco’s 2014 Housing Inventory, which was presented to the City Planning Commission Thursday.
The inventory, which has been done annually for the past 45 years, is designed “to give a snapshot of how much housing construction has been done and provide a window into the pipeline” of future development, said Gil Kelley, director of citywide planning.
But while affordable units made up 21 percent of the total built in 2014, that’s only 6 percent more than the previous year and not nearly enough to meet the growing need.
“We’re not on track to meet our goals,” said Planning Commissioner Cindy Wu. The report “shows we need to make a course correction,” perhaps by increasing the number of affordable units developers are required to provide when they build market-rate housing.
Low-income units, available to a family of four with a maximum income of $77,700, made up 63 percent of the affordable units built in 2014, with very-low-income housing, with family income capped at $48,550, another 20 percent.
There were plenty of concerns about the effect short-term rental agencies like Airbnb are having on the city’s housing market.
“The most affordable housing is the existing housing stock,” said Calvin Welch, a longtime housing activist. But setting a growing number of those homes and apartments aside for short-term rentals “is causing a hemorrhage of affordable housing.”
The report doesn’t show the effect of those short-term rentals on the affordable housing market, said Rodney Fong, the commission’s chairman.
“We have a leak at the bottom,” he said. “You can keep pouring more in at the top, but some time you have to address that leak.”
Soaring housing costs also make San Francisco a tough market for all but the wealthiest residents. Rental prices for a two-bedroom apartment rose 40 percent in 2014, jumping from $3,300 in 2013 to $4,580 last year. The median price for a two-bedroom home in the city was $798,910 in 2014, up 12 percent from 2013 and well above the $550,200 median price elsewhere in the Bay Area.
The city’s residential construction boom shows no signs of abating. Last year, 269 projects for better than 8,000 units were filed with the Planning Department, 66 percent more than the year before and more than double the five-year average of 3,690 units.
The construction numbers are as high as they’ve been in the past 60 years, “except when we were bulldozing neighborhoods and building skyscrapers,” in the days of urban renewal, said Peter Cohen, executive director of the city’s Council of Community Housing Organizations.