San Francisco Looks to Utilize Housing Hiding Under its Nose


As San Francisco attempts to increase the amount of much-needed housing in the city, local government has passed an initiative to develop underused spaces in existing homes and complexes.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a measure on July 26 that permits landlords and home owners to carve new housing units out of unused spaces such as storage facilities, attics, basements, and garages. The legislation will soon go to Mayor Ed Lee, who is expected to sign it into law.

These new units, often called in-law units, are hoped to alleviate the city’s notable shortage of housing, which has caused rent prices to rise 50 percent since 2008.

City planners estimate that the new ability to develop in-law units will create as many as 14,000 new units, good news for a city that struggled to add 3,000 new units in all of 2015.

It is also thought that the sudden influx of housing will drive down rent prices in the city. Many of the new units are expected to have lower-than-average rents due to their generally small size.

Measures similar to this one have been proposed to the city government multiple times in the past but were frequently defeated due to fears of overcrowding.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who co-sponsored the measure, was pleased with the success the legislation saw this time around.

Whether it’s a shift in thinking or an adjustment to the crisis at hand, it is a sea change,” he said.

The bill limits complexes with fewer than five existing units to one in-law unit; larger structures are allowed an unlimited number of new in-law units.

Many still have doubts about the measure, notably the fact that there have been no accompanying plans for creating additional parking.

City planner Mike Antonini worries that the bill has not provoked enough careful consideration from members of the city government.

“It’s been rushed up very quickly because there’s this whole conception that we have this housing crisis,” he said.

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