Best way(s) to make housing more affordable?

jyasskin's picture

I think most people here would agree that it's a problem when wealthy people move into SF and drive prices up so much that existing residents have to leave. (I write this as one of those wealthy people.) The hard question is how best to prevent us from making the city unaffordable. Here's a couple options, with discussion:

1) Rent control: makes sure people can stay in existing apartments, but does nothing to allow them to move within the city or to let new lower-income people (students, artists, etc) enter. Likely to drive initial prices _up_ since it reduces the landlord's flexibility, which both prevents people from getting into the landlord business and makes existing landlords demand higher rents to compensate for the lost flexibility.

2) Require affordable units in new buildings: makes sure there's some supply of cheaper housing in most areas, but drives up the cost of market-rate housing, since market-rate housing has to subsidize the affordable units. Does this create a range of middle-class incomes that can't afford to live here, while both richer and poorer can? Alternately, developers might be able to accomplish this by varying the quality/size of the units in a single building, but I'm not sure they do.

3) Use federal, state, and local grants to build affordable buildings: Increases supply of buildings, but may segregate lower-income residents from higher-income residents. Requires higher taxes to provide the grants.

4) Use federal, state, and local grants to buy units in existing buildings and then rent or sell them as affordable units. Requires higher taxes to provide the grants. Avoids segregation since affordable units are mixed with market-rate ones.

5) Reduce restrictions on new building / subsidize new buildings to increase supply and reduce the market-rate cost of units. This helps the middle class most, but probably doesn't do much for lower income people.

6) Prevent new people from moving to the city, since new people drive up prices. One would probably accomplish this by making SF a worse place to live for everyone so that new people don't want to move in. I think this is a bad idea or impossible, but I'm including it for completeness.


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