The High Cost of Affordable Housing
San Franciscan’s often agree that the city is in desperate need of more affordable housing. In order to fulfill this need, public and private decisions are frequently being made to turn some of the city’s “underutilized” land into homes.
In September, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proposed a solution that included the building or rehabilitation 30,000 new homes over the next six years – the fastest rate in the city’s history.
City Leaders Call for Action
The mayor’s plan was delivered to the public last month, at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, the soon-to-be construction site of nearly 300 town homes – part of the city’s remedy to help curtail the housing crisis.
However, according to a report from the California Housing Partnership Corporation, even the construction of nearly 300 new town homes doesn’t quite match the city’s need for affordable housing for low-income families.
Mayor Lee’s plan calls for the city to build or rehabilitate 5,000 new homes per year for the next six years. To put that in perspective, only 348 units were completed in 2011. And in 2009, considered one of the record years, only 3,500 units were completed.
Part of Mayor Lee’s proposed plan includes the use of state laws that allow the city to have relaxed restrictions on developers who wish to build denser projects. Basically, developers who want to build more units per square foot would receive incentives to do so.
Addressing the Situation: A Look at the Future
But some residents believe that even aggressive reform won’t solve the current housing crisis in the city. According to the same report by the California Housing Partnership Corporation, median rent in the city has increased 22 percent between 2000 and 2012, and probably even more so in the last two years.
During the same period, median income in the city has dropped 2 percent. This means that many households are paying more than half their income on rent – as many as 59 percent of San Francisco residents.
The San Francisco Business Times reported that according to San Francisco Planning Department project manager Kearstin Dischinger, the city is currently working with developers to find the best mix of incentives and affordable housing to guarantee that housing prices don’t continue to increase far past what middle-income residents can afford.