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San Francisco housing construction down 41 percent in 2018

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More than 3,000 authorized new units remain unbuilt amid housing crisis

Photo by Naeblys/Shutterstock

San Francisco struggled to get dividends on housing in 2018, as the number of new homes built fell significantly compared to the year before, down more than 40 percent across the city.

That’s according to the city’s new Housing Inventory report, published this week and surveying the sum total of housing construction last year.

The number of new homes the city permitted (but not necessarily constructed) in 2018 was also down, but was still much higher than what was produced.

Here’s how the reported figures add up:

  • Construction of new housing tanked. The number of new units built plunged 41 percent compared to 2017 (which was itself a decline from the previous year). In all, “new housing in 2018 totaled over 2,600 units.” While this is “about the same as the 10-year average net addition of 2,676,” it’s not good news during a housing crisis.
  • But the city authorized more than double that number. “In 2018, over 6,097 units were authorized for construction”—which is still down nine percent compared to the previous year, but would have represented a huge gain in housing compared to 2017 if only said homes had actually been built. Also: “Since units authorized for construction is one of the indicators of future housing construction, the number of new units completed is expected to increase over the next few years,” notes the report.
  • Approximately a quarter of new housing was deemed “affordable housing.” That’s 645 units, down 56 percent compared to the year before. “About 70 percent of the new affordable units are affordable to very-low and low-income households.”
  • The neighborhood with the largest net gain of new housing was SoMa, with 1,220 new units. The smallest gain was in Bernal Heights, with only five. The “northeast” planning district—an area which includes North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and Chinatown—is the most housing-dense neighborhood, with more than 41,000 units at the end of 2018.
  • Other Bay Area counties continued to outperform SF. New housing authorization (but not necessarily construction) was up four percent across the entire Bay Area, with more than 32,000 new units green lighted across the nine counties. Alameda County led the totals, followed by Santa Clara County. SF came in third, its authorizations representing about 19 percent of the total.
  • In all, the city had 394,615 homes at the end of 2018, an increase of 0.7 percent year over year. Across the city, 31 percent of housing stock was single family homes, 29 percent was buildings with 20 or more units, and 20 percent was smaller multi-family buildings of two to four units.

For the full lowdown on housing in 2018, check out the full report.