San Francisco's 2007-2014 RHNA Target and Results

In order to meet the long-ago forecast of increased demand for housing in the city and around the Bay Area, San Francisco was given a goal of building a minimum of 31,193 housing units between 2007 and 2014, its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).  And while developers delivered over 108 percent of the city’s target for Market Rate units, the City’s production of affordable housing missed by a mile.

A total of 13,391 units of housing deemed affordable to households with incomes above 120 percent of the area median were built in San Francisco from 2007 through the end of 2014.  And while that’s 108.7 percent of the of the city’s target (12,315), the market rate component represented less than half of the City’s overall Housing Needs Allocation.

The majority of the identified need and goal for the City was to build housing which would be affordable to those with household incomes up to 120 percent of the area median, the projected need for which was at least 18,878 affordable units to be built in San Francisco over the past eight years.

With fourth quarter numbers now final, a total of 7,064 units of housing deemed affordable to households earning up to 120 percent of the area median were built in San Francisco from 2007 to 2014, that’s 37 percent of the city’s target.

The largest gap in San Francisco’s housing production was for households earning between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income.  The City only produced 19 percent (1,283 units) of its 2007-2014 allocation for those with Moderate Incomes.  The current Area Median Income (AMI) for an individual is $71,350 and $81,500 for a household of two.

San Francisco’s Housing Needs Allocation for 2015 through 2022 totals a minimum of 28,869 units of housing, including 12,536 market rate units (96 percent of which has already been entitled for development) and 16,333 units of affordable housing.

95 thoughts on “San Francisco Missed Its Affordable Housing Target By A Mile”
  1. And of course, the RHNA dramatically underestimated how much housing we actually need to build, because it didn’t predict Tech Boom 2.0.

    1. This is actually the most important point about these numbers. We added 80k more new jobs than we expected, so these numbers are about 1/4 of what was actually needed. It is not in ANY way correct to say we built more high end housing than we needed. Not even close. Also, the new set of numbers (2015-2022) does NOTHING to alleviate the backlog of missed housing AT ALL LEVELS from the previous cycles. That is just what we need going forward to tread water. All those people making $150k a year are still showing up to throw cash at the chance of sharing a bedroom in neighborhoods like the Mission, driving up the proces for people in the middle.

  2. The lack of affordable housing in SF-proper and inner-core Bay Area overall is causing the metastasizing regional traffic that is killing freedom of mobility in this region.

    Even if you don’t believe that such a lack of affordable housing is a market failure and should be corrected by public policy, you might be persuaded by how much suckier your life is slowly becoming with worsening traffic.

    1. Hm. Maybe we suffer from excess affordable transportation. How about people pay market rates for peak hour freeway access? We’re overdue to implement congestion pricing.

      1. Great idea, but very, very far from a complete solution. We need either much more inner core housing, or about $X-hundred billion in new public transportation infrastructure to get workers to jobs.

      2. Gas prices and bridge tolls tripling and sometimes quadrupling over the years seems to not have effected traffic volume one bit, so I doubt congestion pricing would do the same.

        1. Most commute drivers don’t pay for parking, which for the SF CBD bound at market rate would be more than their gas and tolls. That was a finding of a 2011 study done by UCB to sort out the effects of the congestion pricing for the Bay Bridge (pdf at namelink):

          “UC survey results showed that a majority (76%) of respondents did not pay for parking at their destination. 67% reported that they found free parking, and 9% said that an employer, driver, or someone else paid for parking”

  3. The real scandal from the table above is how little “Moderate income (80-120% AMI) is planned for the City to begin with. Why are twice as many “Above Moderate” or “Low Income” planned for than “Moderate Income”? .

    Its almost like there is a regional plan against housing the Middle Class….

        1. If the City didn’t require so much in “impact” fees/bribes affordable housing wouldn’t require a subsidy.
          Chicken vs. Egg….

  4. This can’t be right! It doesn’t fit the trickle-down narrative that more market-rate housing will result in more- abundant affordable housing.

    The construction of luxury units is replacing housing for our less-wealthy neighbors and few new affordable units are being built. Anyone who doubts this should take another look at the preceding table. Some are likely to argue that we need to double-down on the same policies that are shown to be failing.

    If the quantity of affordable housing stock in the city is not maintained, that policy will be seen as a tragic error by the time this boom is over.

    1. Real problem is building too many condos and not enough rental. The former is supposed to appreciate while the latter often becomes relatively more affordable overtime if it isn’t regularly enhanced.

      1. I’ll let you in on a little secret about the rental housing currently being built. Ownership is primarily major institutional investors (insurance companies, pension funds, private equity). They typically have to follow an investment mandate to maintain property at the highest level. They have no interest in seeing the property get run-down/more-affordable. If you look at where the largest numbers of new rental units are being built, they are not “ma and pa” 4-plexes in the Sunset.

  5. Why doesn’t the city of San Francisco build their own ‘affordable’ housing, instead of hoping that private developers will be able to do it for them?

    They have, what, a half billion dollar per year fund? Even conservatively, that’s enough to construct say a couple thousand units per year, right?

    Oh wait, I know why. It’s because instead of increasing supply by building, they would rather use that money to subsidize buyers of existing units which, not unexpectedly, increases the price of those same existing units and makes them less affordable.

    When will our politicians learn that the simple mechanics of supply and demand can’t be ignored just because it doesn’t fit in with their political ideology?

    1. Then apply that exact same logic to ALL the other cities that ring the bay, from San Jose and into Marin.

      This is not just San Francisco’s problem. Why should The City be the only one responsible for housing growth?

      1. SF has by far the most out-of-whack ratio of job growth versus housing growth over many decades. It seems unfair to suggest that other cities need to build housing now to support SF’s employment base, when those cities will realize no long-term benefit from property taxes while SF keeps all the payroll taxes for itself. If SF needs other cities to fulfill its housing needs, it should start distributing money to do so.

        1. Unfair?/ Really? oh, boo hoo.

          Other cities can and should contribute to the “affordable” housing stock, enabling those who cannot afford SF city to still live in the Bay Area. All of the other cities can afford to do that.

        2. “SF has by far the most out-of-whack ratio of job growth versus housing growth over many decades.”

          I doubt this is true. I would bet that, for example, the ratio of job growth to housing growth in Mountain View or Palo Alto is far higher. SF residents have been increasingly commuting to Silicon Valley. Show me numbers to support your point, and I’ll concede it. Regardless, it is far from clear who is a net winner from this commuting scenario – the “home” city earning the property taxes vs. the “work” city earning payroll taxes but paying lots of other costs to support commuters. And there is the basic point that one can simply provide far less affordable housing for the buck in an expensive locale like SF than, say, Oakland or Concord. This is a complex issue with no simple rule about what is fair or unfair.

          1. It is absolutely crystal clear that every city prefers jobs to housing, because they make more tax revenues on jobs and have fewer expenses, and are free to adjust their payroll tax rates whenever it suits them. Property taxes can’t be adjusted and residents come with all manner of expenses like schools and libraries, police and fire, etc. You can ask any city manager, councilman, or mayor if you need a source for that.

            As for ratios, just look at “Plan Bay Area“. For some reason it calls for SF to add 192k jobs and 92k housing units (by 2040), while San Jose is supposed to add 147k jobs and 129k housing units. Why the disparity? After all San Jose already houses more people than SF, while SF has more existing jobs.

        1. Jon–I clicked on the link to your website. It says “Too many people. Not enough houses. Build more houses.” A simplistic response to a complicated question.

          First of all, the capital markets are not prepared to build enough housing to satisfy the short-term demand (evidence to the contrary, bankers aren’t stupid). Second, the city needs housing at a variety of price points…not just the price points determined to be most profitable to the developer. Third, if regional planning was off by such a wide margin when they established those targets, who is to say that the people calling for 50,000 market rate units aren’t off by just as much?

          None of us knows the future. When proposing drastic changes to the character of the city/region, an incremental approach is appropriate in most situations. There will be some displacements in the short-term and it is the job of government to manage those displacements since, clearly, the market cannot.

          1. “it is the job of government to manage those displacements since, clearly, the market cannot.”

            I don’t think it’s obvious that the government can manage those displacements any better than the market can. It seems obvious that the government’s “managing” is much more concerned with maintaining/increasing housing prices than it is with building affordable housing.

          2. And, yes, perhaps 50,000 units is too many. Maybe. I’d say not, but you can disagree. If they are built, though, the disaster scenario is that prices fall significantly, and become affordable to all sorts of people. I think that’s a risk that most people, given the situation today, would be willing to take.

        2. Yes, the whole bay area needs to pitch in, especially the inner cities like SF. But since NIMBYism and lack of political will get in the way instead we get expanding Windsor, Brentwood, Tracy, Manteca, and Hollister who are happy to take up the slack. Unfortunately Caltrans and the inner bay cities can’t keep up with the demand for all of those cars.

    2. Can you provide a link to that “half billion dollar per year fund?” I thought not.

      And do you know anything about economics besides the words “supply and demand”? You keep repeating them over and over. It would be helpful if you could provide a concise explanation of “simple mechanics of supply and demand” and how it applies to the availability of affordable housing in San Francisco.

      Frank C. correctly pointed-out that the mismatch between the quantity/location of jobs and housing is causing a deterioration in the quality of life throughout the region. Development fees for residential tend to be significantly higher than those for commercial properties (based on the idea that people who live here use more services than people who commute-in during the day). The setting of office building development fees at low levels gives no consideration to the knock-on effect of office buildings drawing more workers than can possibly be housed in the city. What will we do about traffic? What will we do about infrastructure/mass transit. What will we do about the displaced? Those questions need to be answered before we let developers make large-scale permanent changes to the built environment.

      Rather than tearing apart the city by making a lot of jobs for people who come from other places and for whom there is inadequate housing, maybe we should consider a planning approach that would balance the current (and likely future) housing supply and the number of people who can reasonably be employed here.

      The business cycle has not, and will not, be repealed. There is no sense building tens of thousands of units in a short period of time when there is a good chance that a large number of them could be surplus before long. Some of us have already been through a few cycles here.

    3. Their basic political ideology being nimbyism. Increasing supply is politically unpopular because it means blocked views and more people living here. Politicians are just the messenger of the popular will. In the meantime stop freaking out and remember that overall America has plenty of housing supply and out imperfect market still allows people to vote with their feet. Not ideal, but also not apocalypse. Living out your days in Des Moines is hardly th worst fate EVER.

        1. And moreover, if people want to move to California they should be able to do so. “Well, if you can’t afford to live here, go move to Des Moines” is not an answer. Its sophomoric assholery and deserves about as much respect as a fart in a crowded elevator.

          1. No, it’s actually quite logical. Can’t afford to live here in SF?

            Then move somewhere that is WITHIN your means. Pretty simple, huh?

          2. Quite logical indeed. Can’t afford to park your car in SF? Park it somewhere that’s WITHIN your means. Simple!

            Oh, no, I forgot– somehow it’s the government’s job to provide below market rate parking for all cars, whether Civics or Teslas! Housing for cars, not housing for people!

          3. Really childish stuff, right there. Sure, people can move to California if they want. “Should” ? why “should”? get real.

    4. Suggest you look into some urban studies books. There are very few cases in the past hundred years in the USA or Europe, where any ‘city’ satisfied even remotely affordable housing demands, when a job boom happens, let alone to replace units via ‘slum clearance’ etc. This takes massive fed and state funding, both of which have been cut from Clinton to Bush to Obama (and Jerry Brown). And to get it done in a livable dense way, say to ‘create’ neighborhoods like long ago gentrified parts of boston SF, etc, where working class people can live forever in real urban communities, also takes a very ‘socialistic’ bottom up class political and social war. Something I doubt you want, but the majority of us do, and are organizing for such.

      1. @ Tommy Strange — Haven’t you heard? San Francisco is to become a gated community. Our affordable neighborhoods will be relocated to Antioch and Mare Island. I hear that they have, respectively, great BART and ferry service.

        1. Either we build a bunch of Asian style high rise apartment blocks like in Singapore and Hong Kong, or we get better transit to cheaper areas. There’s really no other way. And no one wants to make the decision on what we will do.

          1. @frog–There *is* another way. Your comment incorporates an unstated assumption that limitless growth is the only path. An alternative path would be a development plan that balances employment in the region with the ability to provide housing to the people who will live here across the entire income spectrum.
            Also, the availability of adequate water supplies for all who will live in the Bay Area must be considered. Not just those who can afford to pay a “market price” for water.

          2. I just don’t think we can plan so well. And planning does also mean the government is directly picking winning and losing families and is explicitly telling people where to live. Otherwise, you have the rich gentrifying the middle class areas and the middle class gentrifying the poor areas.

  6. the number of market rate housing they projected that we needed is than a quarter. the market rate target should have been 50,000. the 80-120% is a BS category and should be removed. We should have market and BMR. the people making median should not be subsidized. they are not poor (actually far from it). those people can afford other parts of the bay area and should move to where they can afford. if we build enough market rate housing , then the people making 80-120 will not need to be subsidized.

  7. K just an SFR peon landlord here, but I must remark – I got a 3/1 fixer in fruitvale last July for 315. Today, with very little done to it (no foundation, no seismic) it’s valued 25-30% higher. Cray cray! Not even a fix and flip, just a sit-and-wait-and-sell-as-is. Something’s gotta give — or does it?

  8. seriously who are the people who developed these guidelines? how many years have their heads been in the sand?

    1. Until about 4 years ago, housing here was expensive but not in a state of acute shortage. It takes a whole lot of hindsight prognostication to level that criticism at the developers of the guidelines. Before accepting a “solution” that will remake how the city looks, upend the lives of a lot of long-time residents, and make a much smaller number of people very wealthy, we need to carefully consider our alternatives.

      Without regulation, markets will direct resources to the areas that will return the greatest profit to the owners of those resources. By themselves, they do not produce the greatest good for the greatest number (on occasion, that has been known to happen by accident). It is the job of government to act as a circuit-breaker when market signals encourage property owners to pursue a course of action harmful to the greater good.

      Not all objections to unconstrained profit-seeking are the same. Protesters in The Mission do not equal Telegraph Hill Dwellers.

      1. protestors in the mission are fighting AGAINST their own interest. the Telegraph Hill Dwellers are wealthy and are fighting FOR their own interests.

        i dislike the TH dweller NIMBYs but at least they know economics

        1. “protestors in the mission are fighting AGAINST their own interest.” Says Moto Mayhem.
          Seems a bit patronizing/paternalistic. Give them enough credit for knowing what their interest is and how best to protect/promote it.

          1. its not their fault they are uneducated. they are being led by someone who is taking advantage of them. it happens to uneducated or heavy idealogues all the time. an analogy is poor and middle class southern people voting republican. republicans overwhelmingly win the south because they are thought to be more religious and the christian coalition has pushed that agenda. however, republican policies are clearly against the economic interest of these people. Campos is Ralph Reed leading the “christian Coalition” in this example.

            the only people who benefit from the moratorium are current homeowners.

          2. From my high horse, it is obvious they are too stupid to understand the real issues. They just follow the intellectually dishonest Campos as he walks them off the plank.

          1. Also, some of us don’t have the “I got mine, now screw you!” mentality towards new residents.

          2. @ anon–The mentality isn’t “I got mine, now screw you!”. It’s more like “take your place in line, be nice to your neighbors, and we’ll see what we can do if you’re still around in a few years”.

          3. why wait in line when you can buy your way up front? this is the essential tenant of capitalism.

          4. @Moto Mayhem–Your comment about “buying your way up front” comes across as clever snark but I’ve read your other comments and you may not have intended it that way.

          5. @anon–I was here during the last 3 booms and busts (late-80s/early-90s, 2000-2003, 2008-2011). If a lot of the people currently screaming for homes that they can buy don’t stick around, then problem-solved. I can’t make it any more clear than that. We have had busts here 3 times in the past 30 years. IT is a notoriously disruptive industry and moats are not what they appear. It would be foolish to build thousands of homes until we know that the jobs are sticky.

            San Francisco is not a place where one in the early-/mid-20s can expect to buy home. It hasn’t been that way for several decades. There are places where you can do that. One of them is Houston. You might also find more affordable housing in Sacramento.

            You need to examine what is really important to you. If owning a closet in the sky at a young age is the most important value, then I’m sure there are places where you could accomplish that. But you might not like living there.

            If, closer to home, you want to see what unconstrained growth looks like, pay a visit to Sacramento or Silicon Valley.

          6. I own a place in SF, Dixon, but thanks for your concern. I just don’t see the need for moats to keep out the poors.

            The last three busts have all not shown large, sustained population losses. We’re at an all time high population now. Your assumption is that we’re a bust away from what, a 100,000 person population decline? How long would that last? 2-3 years?

          7. @anon,
            You misunderstood the meaning of “moat”. And just about everything else in my comment. And given your incessant complaining about how hard it is for newcomers to buy a home here, one might easily conclude that you were one of the ones who had not found a place to buy. I’m done with this thread. Trying to discuss facts and logic with you is futile.

          8. Agreed, discussing with you has been futile. Haven’t seen these “facts” that you’re speaking of though. Nice of you to ignore the question about population loss – you seem to really think that we permanently lost population in the previous busts, rather than it just being a very, VERY short term swing.

          9. You have your “moat” already, it’s about 6 miles across, quite cold, and has a bridge over it and a train under it. Spoken from Oakland, the lower half of which resembles SF’s Bayview circa 1995, but 10 or 15 times larger.

  9. fine, you can criticize monday morning quarterbacking as hindsight is easy, but the projections “needed” for 2015-2022 are just laughable

  10. Due to the strict rent control policy, it’s foolish to build a rental apartment building. What if BOS changes policy and mandate all the new buildings under rent control?

    With strict rent control policy, majority of the new buildings will be for sale. Tenants may need to find rental housing in San Mateo county or East Bay.

    1. I think Costa-Hawkins prevents expanding rent control. I think the BMR program run by the Mayor’s office gets around the state law. I’m not an expert, but many here will correct any errors.

    2. A lot of well-capitalized, plugged-in developers have been building and buying high-rise apartments in San Francisco. San Francisco is a favored investment location for the largest institutional investors. Do your homework.

  11. In 1945 (WWII “boom” period) SF had a population of 845K
    In 1979 it reached its all-time low of 690K persons.
    During this period of POPULATION DECLINE, SF was producing an average of 32,000 housing units per decade.

    At present, SF has just reached a population of 855K (barely over the 1945 high.)
    From 1979 to the present, a period of dramatic POPULATION INCREASE, SF has produced an average of 19,500 housing units per decade.

    Why is this?
    Why have we become dramatically less productive with regard to creating housing?
    How can we become more productive?

    BTW, as the article states, in the 8 year period from 2007 to the end of 2014, we created 20,455 units of housing. Everyone is talking about the massive amounts of housing that SF is currently creating during this period of “unprecedented” development (cranes everywhere!), but at this rate we’ll only be producing 25.6K units per decade!

    The reason we have a “housing crisis” and this is an increasingly unsustainable situation for the majority, is that SF (and the greater Bay Area region) has been consistently under-producing adequate amounts of housing over the past 40 years.

    This is due to incrementally well-intentioned, but cumulatively disastrous, public policy that makes the creation of housing very difficult, very time-consuming and very expensive.

    We are all to blame.

    1. If our current population is almost the same as 1945, we should have a housing surplus due to 70 years of continuous building. Very very few housing are lost in the last 70 years.

      It might be that there should be more people living in the same household. We should encourage people to get married, living together or have roommates. Lifestyle also affects housing demand.

      1. Because modern households expect more space. The city is filled with 1100 sq,ft. Victorians that were built for families of 4-6 and are now occupied by households of 1-4.

  12. Also BMR should be all rentals. Why let someone to buy a subsidized housing with taxpayer subsidy? We can provide below market rate rental housing with a 3 year limit. After 3 years, the tenants need to move out to make room for others in the waiting list. The limited subsidy needs to benefit many more people, not just a small number of lucky ones.

  13. If we build 30k units per decade, in 70 years, we have built 210k housing units, that can house 600k new residents but we have almost 0 population growth in the last 70 years. How did 845k people fit in less than half of the housing as we have today? Maybe history can provide us a creative answer to fit 50% people with no new housing built.

  14. Total houses: 346,527 (329,700 occupied: 115,315 owner occupied, 214,385 renter occupied)

    There are only 346k housing units in SF. If population grows 1% a year, we only need to increase the housing units by 1%, 3k per year. SF is already doing this, there should not be any housing shortage in theory.

    Since 2/3 of housing units are already rentals, SF needs to produce more owner occupied units since the tenant population is already a super majority. We can not have a city with 100% tenants.

    My guess is that the housing crisis is not from the lack of new housing production. The real reason for the housing crisis is rent control and the lack of moving out from the long term residents. If there is no out-migration, the newcomers will always have a problem to find housing. Rent control has trapped most of the long term residents in SF and their unwillingness to migrate is the real reason for the seemingly crazy housing crisis.

    There is no shortage of the housing, there is no shortage of housing production. There is an abnormally low out-migration.

    1. It took six hours (maybe a SS record), but someone finally fingered rent-control as the root cause of the issue identified in the post. Usually it only takes about six minutes, no matter what the subject of the post is.

    2. I agree with your post, but I don’t see RC going away until we reduce the tenant population to less than 50% of voting residents.

    3. We can change rent control to a 3 year term. After 3 year term is up, if there is anyone in the waiting list, old tenants have to move out to make room for new tenants.

      1. This is a great idea and we should also apply it to owners, not just renters. Every three years, every property goes up for auction to the highest bidder.

      2. Exactly, any subsidized housing, either rent controlled rental, Below Market Rate rental, or Below Market Rate for sale units, should be utilized by more people. It is an assistance, it is not appropriate to use the subsidy for life. There is a huge need for the limited spots for subsidized housing, let’s make the subsidy temporary, not permanent.

        1. Yes. Because highly skilled teachers and firemen should be encouraged to find more remunerative employment.

          1. why do firemen and teachers need to live in SF if they cant afford it?. there are plenty of cheaper alternatives within 30 minutes via public transport

          2. moto mayhem said: why do firemen … need to live in SF if they cant afford it?
            Perhaps you can ask that question again after the Big One.

          3. You should be prepared. Both the San Andreas and Hayward faults are ripe for snapping. If we are OK with first responders not living on San Francisco Island then we had better learn how to fill their boots when the Big One arrives. Expect to be relying on our own abilities and supplies for about a week. Katrina ya know.

  15. SF has the highest percentage of affordable housing in the whole country. Over 50% of the SF housing units are rent controlled, another large percentage is free public housing. It would be wrong to say SF has a housing affordability problem. Isn’t it?

    1. Rent control is not the same thing as affordable. You seem to have a hangup about rent control but I don’t see you complaining about the same benefit provided to owners in the form of prop 13.

  16. SFBayview, your numbers are a quite a bit off on total housing units, population growth, and number of housing units added over the decades. First off, the US Census estimate for SF 2014 July is 387k housing units. The 346,527 count is from the 2000 census. Notice, not the 2010 census, but the 2000 census.

    FWIW, SF only added about 120k housing units in the 65 years between the 1950 population peak of 775k and now with a population of 850+k. New construction was greater than 120k, but many existing housing units were destroyed, especially in western addition, soma, and downtown.

    Since the mid-20th century there has been a big demographic shift away from families with children and towards single workers in SF. SF had about 50k more children in 1950 than now and has about 125k more adults now than in 1950. The result is we have many more housing units with one or two occupants than back in the mid-20th century and the average persons per household dropped from 2.7 in 1950 to about 2.2 now. Since most of the new housing units are being built in areas that are either not very kid friendly, like soma and downtown, or have some of the worst schools in SF, like bayview; I doubt we will see a reversal of the trend.

    Without getting into the actual migration numbers which the census collects in great detail, SF does have a lot of turn over and renters turnover at more than twice the rate of owner-occupied in SF.

  17. Institutions developers and big corporations must fund the housing we need.

    Met life did it in the 1940’s why can these corporations not be made to pay into the system and build the infrastructure and housing we need?

    Tax them up front and require new construction to be 50% rental and 50% for sale, 25% of both at affordable levels of rent and sale price, to regulate the construction booms.

    1. yes, the developers should build more market rate housing, and they would if the city would get out of the way.

  18. Lots of people would love to build housing, if they can be reasonably certain they will make a profit on it.

  19. My thinking is the goal is missed because those who made the plan in the first place are wildly unrealistic. This smells like Soviet 5 year plan. It is just top down grand idea with no realistic implementation and no learning and feedback from the marketplace.

    1. Some people still think that they are geniuses and they can control the economy than the market.

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