Cindy Chew/2009 s.f. Examiner file photoRising rents and a shortage of housing in San Francisco have spurred advocates for tenants to seek change.

New poll shows San Franciscans are hungry for more housing

San Franciscans are worried about the cost of living and mostly blaming the spike on rising housing prices, according to a new poll of voters in what has become the nation’s priciest city.

A majority of those polled — registered voters in San Francisco — said the most pressing issue in The City is the increased cost of living because of ballooning rents and housing costs, according to the poll released Wednesday by San Francisco Survey. However, 46 percent said The City is headed in the right direction.

The poll asked 631 people in Chinese and English a series of questions about what was driving up the cost of living in The City. It was a follow-up to a September poll in which the group found that city residents were increasingly worried about affordability.

In the latest poll, 71 percent said San Francisco has become a much more expensive place to live in recent years. When asked about the top three problems “you and your family” are facing, cost of living was first, followed by housing and crime and safety.

Those polled most often linked the cost of living to housing costs, and that was true for renters and homeowners.

Most respondents said that a lack of middle-income housing was the main factor driving affordability issues, followed by growth in the tech sector, a lack of rental units and too much high-end housing.

The solution: build more housing.

Sixty-eight percent said that would solve cost-of-living problems.

While no specific definition for affordable housing was given, another 66 percent said cost of living would decline if more family housing was built.

Affordability, homelessness and housing topped the list of issues that are most important to San Franciscans. Cost of living was The City’s main issue, followed by homelessness and housing.

When it comes to who is to blame, those polled had a mixed response.

Underinvestment in housing topped the list, followed by developers and The City’s desirability as a place to live.

Still, respondents also blamed City Hall’s policies and the general economy.

Mayor Ed Lee’s office has said the main avenue The City has to help the middle class find reasonably priced housing is to build more low-income housing to stabilize prices in the market.

But Peter Cohen, co-director at the Council of Community Housing Organizations, said that is wishful thinking, not policy. The City needs to get developers to include more affordable, middle-income units in their buildings to impact the housing crunch for the middle class. That is not happening in any real way, he said.

The Web survey polled people from Nov. 4 to Nov. 7 who are demographically representative of voters in San Francisco.

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