Housing Affordability Strategy

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Feedback received from the community will directly inform the Planning Department's Community Stabilization Strategy and the Housing Affordability Strategy; MOHCD's Consolidated Plan, Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, the HIV Housing Plan, and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development's strategic planning efforts.

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Housing Affordability Discussion Questions

About This Project

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The Housing Affordability Strategy (HAS) will provide a framework to help City staff, policymakers, and the public evaluate how our housing policies and plans work together to address housing affordability for our diverse population. The project will develop numeric goals and an inventory and assessment of current and potential tools to improve housing affordability with a particular focus on outcomes for low and moderate-income households in relation to the broader housing market.


San Francisco is in a housing affordability crisis with housing costs that have increased far faster than inflation since the late 1990s and become acutely expensive during the economic boom after 2011. Due in part to lack of affordable housing coupled with insufficient overall housing production to meet the demand created by higher income household growth, the city has seen an increase in cost burdens and a drop in low- and moderate-income households, certain racial/ethnic groups, and household types. Simultaneously, San Francisco has a long-standing commitment to invest in housing affordable at low and moderate incomes and to protect tenants with local ordinances on rent control and just cause eviction. Despite these efforts, the city has struggled to substantially improve housing affordability for low and moderate-income households and lacks a comprehensive picture of how various policies and programs work together to address affordability, a gap the HAS is meant to fill.


The Planning Department currently prepares various required housing plans and reports including the Housing Element, Housing Inventory, and Housing Balance Reports. While these plans and reports include data, analysis, and high-level objectives, their content is mostly prescribed and they are not designed to improve housing affordability. Currently, housing goals are provided by the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), minimum housing production targets set by state and regional agencies to ensure that cities zone adequate land for new housing. RHNA’s housing targets have various limitations as a guide to improve affordability:

  • Targets do not address existing housing challenges like cost burdens.
  • Targets for housing affordable at low and moderate incomes are not accompanied by a funding plan or other policies to build this housing. As a result, targets are routinely missed, creating a deficit of tens of thousands of affordable homes since 1990.
  • Targets do not account for the negative effect that high housing costs have on population and household growth, resulting in future targets based on trends already shaped by high housing costs.
  • Targets do not account for the impact of income growth on rents and prices and neither targets nor actual production have matched growth in higher income households since 1990. As a result, higher income households occupy more of the city’s existing housing while asking rents and prices soared.

Development of Housing Affordability Goals

The HAS will develop a quantitative framework for housing affordability goals that includes input from technical experts, housing advocates, and the general public. This quantitative framework will reflect that various combinations of funding, policy, and planning tools could be used to achieve desired affordability outcomes given that public funding has been limited in the past. Housing affordability goals will focus on achieving desired outcomes including:

  • Stabilize or reverse the loss of low and moderate income households in San Francisco.
  • Stabilize or reduce housing cost burdens and rents and prices.
  • Address housing needs by race/ethnicity, age, and household type to support the city’s diversity.

Support the City’s Strategic Framework to significantly reduce homelessness.

Inventory and Assessment of Housing Affordability Tools

Staff will work with consultants and city colleagues to analyze the impacts of various investments, policies, and plans relative to the housing affordability goals and work with stakeholders to suggest additional tools to reach those goals. This will build on the Department’s Community Stabilization project. Due to technical or capacity limits, the HAS may assess certain tools using a more qualitative approach. Tools will largely fall into three areas:

  • Affordable housing production and preservation tools including funding and financing tools
  • Tenant protection and community stabilization tools
  • Overall housing production tools including impacts of land use and zoning

The HAS will also try to address additional factors that affect housing and relevant policies, including:

  • The legal, regulatory, economic, and political contexts of housing production and preservation.
  • The impact of regional housing production and preservation on San Francisco’s housing market.
  • Construction costs and processes and their impacts on production and affordability levels.

Housing Policy Group

The San Francisco Planning Department will work with consultants and other city agencies to develop a Housing Affordability Strategy (HAS) that will develop numeric goals and an inventory and assessment of current and potential tools to improve housing affordability with a focus on low and moderate-income households. The HAS will provide a framework to help city staff, policymakers, and the public assess how our policies and plans work together to address housing affordability for our diverse population. Learn more about the Housing Policy Group here.


Stakeholder and Public Engagement

The HAS will be shaped by input from diverse voices including:

  • Technical Experts: The HAS will have at least 5 meetings with experts in housing economics, finance, and development and demographic projections to provide input on goals and tools.
  • Housing Advocates: The HAS will have at least 5 meetings with housing advocates of diverse views and groups who regularly work on housing affordability issues to provide input on goals and tools.
  • General Public: The HAS will include public workshops and forums that will hopefully also include a robust online presence to gather input and share information with diverse members of the public.
  • Planning Commission and Elected Officials: The HAS will engage the Planning Commission and elected officials regularly for their input and provide public presentations.
  • Collaboration with City Partners: Planning will work on the HAS with City agencies who also focus on housing including MOHCD, the HSH, OEWD, the Controller’s office, the Rent Board, DBI, and others.


Q2 Q3 Q4 2019
Q2 Q3

Housing Needs & Trends Report

Public Engagement               
Tools Inventory & Assessment              
Housing Affordability Goals              
Housing Affordability Doc              



James Pappas, Policy Planner