Friday, July 24, 2015
Gabe Metcalf, well respected in San Francisco land use circles and the head of SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research), has a nice piece in CityLab today about San Francisco's housing woes and their relation to progressive policies in that city. That said, I found the most compelling part of Metcalf's analysis one that was unexplored, and mentioned only in this passing passage:
Let me say very clearly here that making it possible to add large amounts of housing supply in San Francisco would never have been enough by itself. A comprehensive agenda for affordability requires additional investments in subsidies for affordable housing. Given the realities of economic inequality, there are large numbers of people who would never be able to afford market rate housing, even in a better-functioning market. [See SPUR’s complete set of ideas to make San Francisco more affordable.] In addition, while my focus here has been on San Francisco’s own housing politics, many smaller Bay Area cities and towns have been even worse actors. A regional solution, in which all cities do their part to accommodate regional population growth, would be far more effective than trying to solve our affordability problems inside the boundaries of a handful of cities. But San Francisco has been part of the problem too, when it could have been a very big part of the solution. Our suburban communities never claimed to be progressive, never wanted to be a refuge for people from all over the world seeking cultural tolerance or an opportunity for a better life.
In my opinion, this is the heart of the matter. San Francisco is a very small city jurisdictionally. An affordable housing policy that effectively addresses the Bay Area's housing woes must involve the surrounding suburbs. I made my analysis of the problems some months ago in a blog post I entitled, "Are San Francisco's land use rules the culprit for skyrocketing rents? [Hint: No.]."