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San Francisco's Intractable Housing Dilemma

Blogger Shane Phillips writes that San Francisco has two possible responses to its housing crisis: increase supply to accommodate newcomers, or hunker down and promote only subsidized housing. Both, he says, are lousy. Other coastal cities, beware.
June 14, 2015, 11am PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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San Francisco's housing crisis is old news. The new news comes from the almost daily responses from policymakers and stakeholders about what to do with it. The latest is a proposed moratorium on development in the rapidly growing Mission District. This proposal gives blogger Shane Phillips pause, in part because of the economic ramifications of a housing free: "The region may have a lock on the tech sector, but startups for unaffiliated industries would generally be foolish to locate in the Bay Area. San Francisco is on its way to becoming a monolithic populace, not just socioeconomically but commercially as well."

With demand likely to abate around the time Greenland's glacier's refreeze, the city faces two outcomes:  

"In one, the supply-siders get their way and lots of new market-rate housing, and a decent share of affordable housing, is built in the Mission and across the city. In the other, the anti-development folks get their way and very little new housing is built in the coming years, with most new construction coming in the form of affordable housing constructed with city, state, and federal funds. The first outcome is extremely bad, the second is utterly disastrous."

This dilemma is important, according to Phillips, because of its ramifications for other attractive, geographically constrained cities.  

"San Francisco is a harbinger, but the fate it foreshadows is not an inevitable one, as Tokyo and other cities have demonstrated. Places like Los Angeles and Seattle are on the cusp, and Chicago and Philadelphia are moving in the same direction, but they're all still salvageable. Boston and Washington, D.C. are further along than even LA or Seattle, and they'll have to adopt a regional housing strategy to address housing supply in their regions. This will be considerably more challenging than a go-it-alone approach, but their small size necessitates partnerships with neighboring cities that share responsibility for the affordability and equity of their respective regions."

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Published on Monday, June 1, 2015 in Better Institutions
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