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San Francisco's Five Most Important Housing Stories Right Now

Scott Lucas | August 11, 2014 | Story Real Estate

San Francisco's civic pastime—talking about the housing market—has been especially heated over the last few days. Here's a cheat sheet on the latest developments:

We may not be in a housing bubble: That's right—the high rent and buying prices in San Francisco and the Bay Area won't be going away anytime soon. That's according to a presentation at SPUR by two real estate experts: Jed Kolko of Trulia and Tim Cornwell of The Concord Group. The big takeaway was that the city's affordability problem is "fundamentally a supply and demand issue." San Francisco alone needs about 4,000 more units to meet demand. (Don't get too excited if you live outside of the city: There's no city in the Bay Area that is meeting its demand right now). That's good, at least as far as it means that housing values aren't likely to rapidly collapse, but it also means that they are a long-term trend. It's all the techies' fault, right? Not so fast: Turns out that largest share of housing transplants into San Francisco from 2006 to today were those aged 55 to 74.

Airbnb regulations passed the Planning Commission: After a six-and-a-half-hour meeting on Thursday, the Planning Commission passed Supervisor David Chiu's proposal to regulate Airbnb and other sharing-economy housing services. The short version of the plan: It's complicated. The long version: It's complicated, and it's probably going to change when it goes before the Board of Supes in the fall for final sign-off. (The biggest change would be limiting the number of days a unit could be rented out to 90 a year.) Progressive opponents think that Chiu's proposal isn't restrictive enough. Airbnb and some of its users think it goes too far.

There's going to be another waterfront development vote: Developers behind the proposal to transform Pier 70 into a mixed-use development that includes 2,000 units of housing and 9 acres of parks say that they're gearing up for a citywide initiative in support of the plan, which breaks the 40-foot height cap and thus requires a citywide vote. Good news though: The projects backers have already received the blessing of former Mayor Art Agnos, who said the project will “will win in a landslide.”

Music halls are threatened by new housing: Some, like the Mission's Elbo Room, may be razed entirely. Others, like the Independent on Divisadero or The Bottom of the Hill in Potrero, fear noise complaints once new housing is built next to them. Don't panic too much: The story is mostly about speculating as to what might happen once other thing that haven't happened yet do come to pass. But still.

The city's going to start buying buildings: A pilot program is offering $3 million in loans to help housing nonprofits buy smaller buildings, just as long as they keep residents in place and the rents below market-rate. That's not much, but it could help blunt the some of the worst of Ellis Act evictions.

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