Everything That's Wrong About San Francisco Housing in One Chart

Scott Lucas | April 25, 2014 | Story Real Estate

It came too late to be included in that mega-story on Techcrunch explaining San Francisco's out of control housing prices, but this data visualization makes for another pretty strong piece of evidence that the Bay Area's out-of-this-world housing costs are our own collective faults.

Matthew Yglesias over on Vox writes, "most of the markets with strong housing demand make it extremely difficult, as a regulatory matter, to add additional housing units."

And if you need a reason to believe that's true, just take a look at the graph above. It shows the number of new private housing units approved in the San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, and nearby cities (the red line) in comparison with those in Houston, Texas (the blue line).

The takeaways: Despite a boomlet in the early 90s, the region hovers around 1,000 new units permitted per year. That's in sharp contrast to Houston's numbers, which in the last decade have ranged from around 2,000 to around 7,000. You can't blame the recession and the mortgage crisis for our low levels of building—our numbers are small even in economic growth years. As Yglesias says, "That's the power of regulation. Not just in the city, but in the surrounding suburbs."

And it's that power—in large part—that is keeping our rents so damn high.

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