“Hack the Housing Crisis” – Creative Community Comes Together Around Solutions to San Francisco’s Affordability Crisis
By: Sarah Jackson
San Francisco Public Press and Shareable Magazine brought together the city’s experts in urban planning, architecture, finance, renter protection and legislation to discuss innovative solutions to San Francisco’s housing affordability problem.
The event titled “Hacking the Housing Crisis” attracted over 140 housing policy leaders with rapid-fire presentations and small working groups to “idea-jam” and create several prototype solutions. Here are some of their proposals:
“Eviction Rapid Response Team”
In 2013, more than 3,600 San Franciscans received eviction notices, of them only 10% had access to a lawyer, while 90% of landlords had lawyers according to attendee SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Research shows that tenants are 5 to 10 times more likely to fight an eviction notice and stay in their homes with access to a lawyer.
Affordable housing advocates at the conference want the city to create a 311 emergency phone line that tenants can call to receive information and resources encompassing legal advice, mental health support and translation to help keep tenants in their houses. Supporters say there are plenty of resources the city offers, but they are not necessarily speedy or easily accessible.
Cap and Trade Revenues To Build Affordable Housing Near Transit
Another idea discussed in the working groups is for the state to construct affordable housing near transit by using 20-25 percent of the revenue from California’s Cap and Trade program. Housing could be built according to designs of Plan Bay Area, a long-term plan that incorporates public transportation and land-use policy to decrease carbon emissions and provide affordable housing for Bay Area residents. Attendees recognized that this is a regional housing crisis, advocating more regional planning, not just San Francisco city planning.
YIMBY – “Yes In My Backyard”
Housing visionaries at the event explored the idea of changing zoning laws on single-family homes to encourage the construction of backyard cottages. Two-thirds of the city’s land is zoned for single-family homes, allowing for an increase of 33% of homes by legalizing backyard cottages and other forms of housing add-ons. A path to legalizing current backyard cottages and in laws was discussed, as there are already many of these illegal small dwellings that don’t follow city codes. Another proposed solution is to create micro-apartments or modular housing of 220 square feet. The group thought of a website to be titled YIMBY or “Yes In My Backyard” to provide information on zoning laws and to bring landlords, tenants and developers together to discuss the construction process and resolve issues.
With the tech boom in full force, working families are struggling to stay in San Francisco – as the city’s gap between the rich and the poor is one of the worst in the nation. Currently the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,450 and takes up over half of the average worker’s wages. With the fastest rental market in the nation, the rental price is 17 percent higher than in April 2013.
This isn’t just a San Francisco issue – it’s a regional one.
“Hacking the Housing Crisis” is an example of the community coming together through innovative problem solving. And here at Reset, we’ll continue to showcase great moments like this, so please email us at [email protected] if you know of an upcoming event!