The state of California has given San Francisco the go-ahead to implement a new Housing Element, which sets ambitious affordable housing construction quotas until 2031, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.
Signed off by Mayor London Breed and the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, the plan calls for the construction of over 82,000 homes over the next eight years — which is more than three times San Francisco’s 10-year annual production average. Over half of those homes are planned to be affordable homes for low- and middle-income residents.
The ambitious strategy comes after the Newsom administration passed a law that requires cities to expand their housing goals beyond their initial targets. Newsom’s office said the state has adopted an approach that emphasizes local government accountability, and it is already “yielding results” in places with long construction timelines and many bureaucratic hoops to jump through, like San Francisco.
“Through stringent state mandates with real consequences for failing to meet their obligation, San Francisco is showing what is possible when you stop kicking the can down the road and start to face the difficult decisions it takes to tackle the housing needs of Californians,” Newsom said in a statement.
In its last housing plan, San Francisco only reached about 50 percent of its goal to build 16,000 affordable housing units from 2015 to 2022.
With the new state guidelines, San Francisco must permit 29,000 units within four years during its midterm assessment, otherwise they must rezone for more developments.
To get it done, the city plans to approve 30,000 units via a non-discretionary process, which sets aside administrative barriers that usually stretch out development timelines.
Breed said she’s already directed city staff to begin the work, like passing legislation, putting process reforms in place and finding funding sources for affordable units. The city plans to rezone westside neighborhoods to increase their density, especially near public transportation stations, and increase affordable units in “well-resourced” neighborhoods.
“I’m thankful for all the work that went into this by City staff, our partnership with the State in working to get this finalized, and the Board of Supervisors for approving [the Housing Element],” said Breed. “We need to bring that same focus and shared vision to the work ahead of passing reforms to our housing approval and permitting process, rezoning our city, and securing affordable housing funding. This is a major step for changing how we approve housing in San Francisco, but it’s only the first step.”
The city said this housing element is its first with a specific focus on equity, by prioritizing building for low-income families of color in areas with transportation, education and economic-rich parts of the city.
“Throughout this process, we’ve engaged with communities across the City,” said Rich Hillis, director of the city’s planning department. “Across the board, San Franciscans demanded real, meaningful solutions to our housing and affordability challenges, and the 2022 Housing Element is a detailed blueprint to address those challenges.”
While the city begins its work, state housing officials from the California Department of Housing and Community Development said they will continue to review San Francisco’s housing policies through their Housing Accountability Unit to understand how the city has created years worth of building delays.
They will also closely monitor the city’s progress in completing housing development milestones and ensure it is compliant with state law.
“I hope this model of cooperation continues going forward, and that other cities take advantage of the resources and technical assistance made available by HCD towards housing element compliance,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez. “As the City works to untangle an antiquated and stubborn system that impedes production of housing for every income level, HCD will continue to monitor closely, investigate, and provide any technical assistance that can help them meet the 82,069-unit goal over the next eight years.”