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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Report: In 2009, S.F. Housing Production Highest in 45 Years

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 1:11 PM

click to enlarge Sorry kids! Busy here...
  • Sorry kids! Busy here...
But good luck affording one...

A new Housing Inventory report put out by San Francisco's Planning Department says the last time builders created more apartments than they did in 2009 was 1964.

But citywide opposition to new housing construction -- as evidenced by last night's 10-0 Board of Supervisors vote to reverse a Planning Commission decision to approve plans for a 248-unit apartment building downtown -- suggest the city's high cost of housing will continue driving workers to the suburbs.

"On the trajectory we're on, we're headed toward income cleansing of the city," said Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, a smart growth advocacy group. "The middle class will bail out, any money we have to deliver subsidized housing will be spent, and the rest of the poor and middle class will lead the city, and the character of San Francisco will be at great risk."

However, the discrepancy between the amount of people working in the five-county San Francisco are  and the available number of housing units has typically hovered at around 70,000.

So, increasing the number of apartments by 3,366 last year barely makes a dent in this housing shortage. Meanwhile, Colen said the ongoing credit crunch suggests 2009 was a one-time blip, in which long-ago permitted projects happened to be completed at the same time. Buildings recently completed in the China Basin area, which accounts for much of the city's new housing construction, were originally proposed two decades ago. Years of meetings, hearings, revised proposals, and further meetings, prolonged the permitting process such that many of these 1970s-era plans have only recently been executed.

click to enlarge barn_raising.jpg
San Francisco political leaders have long believed that constraining construction of market-rate apartments does not have a meaningful effect on prices for lower-end apartments targeted at middle-class workers. Four decades of constrained new housing supply, however, have made San Francisco one of the most expensive places in the world to obtain housing -- in spite of California's drastic recession.

The credit crisis, combined with the likelihood that last year's phenomenon of 20-year-old apartment proposals finally coming to fruition won't fully repeat itself, mean the city's housing shortage will continue to result in high prices for apartments both spartan and posh.

"We have grave doubts about projects that are now in the pipeline, and don't believe even a fraction of them will be delivered," Colen said. "Financing is more daunting than ever."

According to the report:

  • New construction unit totals for 2009 -- 3,366 - also increased by

    11percent from 2008. New construction in 2009 was more than double the

    20-year average of 1,659 units.

  • In 2009, a net of 3,454 units were added to the housing stock, an

    increase of 6 percent over the previous year's total. This is also 50 percent above

    the 10-year average (2,302) and 112 percent over the 20-year average (1,633).

  • In 2009, the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) authorized 752

    units for construction according to building permit data. That number

    represents a 68 percent drop from 2008 (2,346).

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