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Here’s What San Francisco Looks Like As An Affordable City

Stashed in: San Francisco!, Awesome, economics, Medium, Bay Area Housing

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In the Bay Area right now there are a lot of arguments about whether affordable housing should be largely built in the cities or whether the "burden" should be spread out into NIMBY-tastic suburbia. I don't know whether affordable housing consumers actually WANT to live in Sunnyvale -- although I will vote yes if you do! -- but it's instructive to see what San Francisco might look like with more high-rises.

This is the first time I've seen someone describe what an affordable San Francisco looks like:

The city probably needs somewhere north of 150,000 more units: most high-rises would be concentrated in the Eastern, Downtown, and mid-market areas, while every block in the entire city would need at least one 7-story building. Essentially, San Francisco would be Manhattan downtown and Paris everywhere else.

Right Now Fear Is Guiding San Francisco’s Housing Policy:

For at least the past 30 years, the home of Silicon Valley has had an approach to housing that is shockingly ignorant of mathematical reality. San Francisco’s sky-high housing prices are already unaffordable to 86% of residents. The city adds roughly 10,000 more people per year than units constructed (12,000 per year population growth vs. 2,100 new units).

At the moment, affordable housing groups and developers are fighting over how to allocate the Mayor’s “ambitious” goal of 30,000 more units by 2020 — a plan that probably won’t even accommodate population growth and will, at best, slow down price increases.

Amidst crippling fears that powerful anti-development hawks will vote down any project perceived as the “Manhattanization” of the city’s quaint Victorian skyline, not a single housing agency or organization I contacted could tell me how many subsidized or market-rate units the city actually needs to build in order to house either low-income residents or the majority of San Franciscans.

In the depths of this overwhelming pessimism, well-intentioned government agencies and housing groups have all been clawing for incremental victories — one condo at a time — with little idea of whether there was ever a path to San Francisco being affordable to residents of all income brackets.

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