Supervisors set to vote on construction of new in-law units in the Castro

Legalizing in-law units in San Francisco has become a focus of city officials as they have sought to create lower-cost housing options amid soaring real estate prices.

On Monday, Supervisor Scott Wiener gained the support of the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee for his legislation that would allow the construction of new in-law units in the Castro neighborhood. Some are viewing the proposal as a pilot that could be extended to other parts of The City.

The board will vote today on legislation that would create a path to legalizing the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 existing secondary housing spaces, or in-law units, citywide.

“We have a housing affordability crisis,” Wiener said, adding that many residents in the Castro, which he represents, are fearful about their living situations.

“Many residents in the Castro — as in a number of other neighborhoods — are very understandably concerned that they will be priced out of the Castro,” Wiener said. “In-law units are probably the most affordable type of nonsubsidized housing. They tend to be smaller, they tend to be on the ground level. They are usually not as fancy as some other units of housing.”

The legislation would allow the construction of one in-law unit of up to 750 square feet in buildings of up to 10 units and two in-law units in buildings with more than 10. The units must be constructed within the existing building footprint and not be currently used as residences. Such spaces include garages, basements or large ground-floor storage spaces.

The Planning Department has estimated there is a potential for the creation of 400 in-law units in the Castro area, but it remains unclear how many building owners will take advantage. Units constructed in rent-controlled buildings, those before 1979, will fall under rent control laws.

The full board is expected to vote next week on Wiener’s legislation. 

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