Better Neighborhoods: Housing


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Today we are faced with a housing crisis--a crisis of affordability.

San Francisco has seen unprecedented economic growth in recent years. Housing production has not kept pace with this economic growth. As new people have come, we have struggled to find a place for them. Many long-standing residents have been priced out.

Despite the recent economic downturn, San Francisco hasn't stopped growing. By 2020, 16,000 new households and 100,000 new jobs are expected. Our biggest challenge is to address our current demand and future need for housing. The vast majority of housing produced in recent years has been priced at market rates and only a small portion has been affordable for families with very low, low and moderate incomes.* If forced to find housing today, less than 12% of San Franciscans could afford a home here.**

To meet our housing need, we must build 3,200 housing units every year for the next five years. Two-thirds must be affordable to families making $80,100 or less.***

As the Planning Department, we plan for housing in a way that strengthens the character of our neighborhoods. We aim to encourage housing in the best possible locations, at appropriate densities and at prices affordable to those who live and work in our city.

Our efforts are based on these principles:

  • Locate housing where we have the infrastructure and services for a residential population. As with all new development, housing should be part of a neighborhood, including the transportation, services and urban amenities that create livable and balanced places.
  • Discourage housing where it wouldn't be part of a neighborhood. Housing should not be located where it disrupts other activities. Carefully consider the impact of new housing in neighborhoods where it is not a predominant use.
  • Encourage a variety of housing prices and unit types that reflects the needs of all San Franciscans.
  • Above all, ensure that new housing enhances San Francisco's long-standing diversity and unique attributes of place.

The Better Neighborhoods Program

The Better Neighborhoods Program is one effort to address the city's housing needs. Citywide, the program encourages housing as part of a larger effort to link our use of land to transit and bring good place-making to the forefront of planning in our city. Locally, the program uses intensive community workshops to adapt and refine citywide goals to the needs of each neighborhood. Our goal is to forge a vision by working with the community and to implement this vision through a plan that presents a clear program for the future.

* In 1999 and 2000, market-rate housing production was 128% of the regional target, while production for very low, low and moderate income families was 14%, 13% and 6% respectively. San Francisco Planning Department, "A Review of Inclusionary Affordable Housing Policy" October 11, 2001.

** San Francisco Planning Department, November 2001.

*** Average Median Income for a four-person household in the San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo PMSA