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Report: Multi-family housing concentrated in one part of the city

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A Planning Commission report found that the majority of The City’s multi-family housing (20 or more units) is clustered in the Northeastern corner. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The bulk of San Francisco’s multi-family housing is concentrated in just one sector of The City, according a report presented to the San Francisco Planning Commission on Thursday.

The Housing Needs and Trends report found that in a city where 65 percent of households are renters, the geographical distribution of its housing stock — which includes about 30 percent single-family homes and another 30 percent of buildings of 20 or more units — is not at all even.

Today, a majority of single-family homes, or about 75 percent, have been spread out largely in The City’s western and southern neighborhoods, while buildings that provide the majority of housing (20 or more units) are clustered in the Northeastern corner.

Per the report, buildings of five or more units contain more than half of The City’s housing stock, yet occupy less than 20 percent of its residential land. In contrast, single-family homes providing just about 30 percent of The City’s units occupy more than 60 percent of its land.

Pro-housing advocates said the report highlighted a need for rezoning to allow the construction of higher density housing in The City’s southern and western areas neighborhoods.

Sonja Trauss, co-founder of the pro-housing YIMBY group and a candidate in the District 6 supervisorial race, called for exceptions to city zoning laws for affordable projects.

“Affordable housing has to be multi-family, 80 percent of The City you cannot build an apartment building like that, you just can’t,” said Trauss.”The idea is to have an ‘affordable housing overlay,’ which means if it’s market-rate housing, the zoning is what it is, and if it’s 100 percent affordable, you get a different zoning — which would be… whatever you need to make your project feasible.”

“I found it troubling we increased high and very low earners…and hollowed out the middle class,” said Steven Buss, of the group Mission YIMBY.“You should be able to build multi-family affordable housing anywhere in The City….because we are in a crisis and need to treat it as a crisis.”

“The fact that five districts in the City are carrying our multi-family units is distressing,” Planning Commissioner Milicent Johnson said. “We can’t continue to have that and have equity in our city.”

While The City has steadily produced about 4,000 housing units since 2014, peaking with 5,000 in 2016, the demand has long outpaced the supply— a reality that has shifted the city’s demographics and increased racial disparities dramatically.

The number of jobs in San Francisco increased across all wage categories between 1990 and 2015, yet the report points to a significant increase in jobs paying more than $100,000 annually, with a total of 90,000 of such high-paying jobs added in the years since.

“We had 70,000 of such jobs in 1990, so we added more than the total amount of jobs we had,” said Pedro Peterson, a senior city planner. He added that only about 30,000 market-rate units were built in that same period.

Between 1990 and 2000, The City experienced a “100 percent increase in high-income households living in our housing stock,” said Peterson, referring to households making 200 percent or more of the average median income.

Those high-earning households increased by another 50 percent in the following 15 years, while the number of extremely low-income households increased by 25 percent.

Since 1990, The City’s African American population has dropped by more than half, from 11 percent to 5 percent.

In regard to The City’s housing and affordability crisis, Planning Commission President Richard Hillis said the report “puts in stark numbers what we hear everyday,” adding that the report came “at a good time” given the recent change in the City’s leadership.

At her inaugural ceremony on Wednesday, Mayor London Breed clearly stated that during her term, “Yes, we will build more housing.”

On Thursday, Hillis echoed that call.

“We have to expand the opportunity to build more housing and higher density housing in areas we have not considered,” he said.

The report stems from a year-long analysis of U.S. Census data, surveys of San Francisco residents and city-generated housing data for the period between 1995 to 2015.


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