Why I Am Attending The “Housing The Bay” Summit

March 1, 2018

I am an active member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a wonderful non-profit organization which is helping to address the San Francisco Bay Area’s housing crisis. I am attending this summit because it helps inform my work as a real estate broker while keeping up with current trends, housing issues, challenges and innovative solutions which broadly affect the community and may directly or indirectly affect my clients consisting of investors, real estate developers, families, and other owners of real estate.

ULI San Francisco created the Housing the Bay initiative in early 2017. The initiative explores the underlying causes of the Bay Area’s high housing costs and inadequate housing supply. The Housing the Bay Summit will be held on March 23, 2018.

Focused on the cost of building, financing, community engagement and the public process – many workshops and presentations will be made detailing both construction costs and development fees. Various factors have been pushing construction costs up, including a limited labor pool. The ULI moderated two panels on modular housing in 2017 which addressed: 1) permitting different construction technologies 2) Why some modular housing companies have failed, and 3) Labor issues related to modular housing.

Covering development fees, staff members were interviewed from different city agencies: affordable housing advocates, those who benefit from development fees, and the developers. The lack of availability of housing and the challenges of transportation such as traffic are contributing to the Bay Area’s affordability issues. Strategies are being considered to preserve existing housing and prevent displacement or build new housing.

Further, a study on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in April 2017 was conducted as a lead-up program to the Housing Summit. San Francisco created its citywide accessory dwelling unit program in 2016, and ULI San Francisco teamed up with the U.C. Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation to study how Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver helped increase production of accessory dwelling units to ease housing pressure. In San Francisco, accessory dwelling units are attractive to both single-family homeowners and apartment building owners, who are choosing to convert unused spaces. Innovative pilot programs, models and benchmark practices are being evaluated in cities experiencing similar housing crunches such as Vancouver.

A panel taking place two weeks prior to the summit, will describe how Proposition 13 (which places limits on the state’s property taxes) discourages property turnover leading to increased housing development costs, and thereby preventing new housing construction. A new ballot initiative has been proposed for the November 2018 elections that would reform Proposition 13. If passed, the initiative would enable commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on their current market value, but would not change property taxes for residential properties.

The upcoming housing summit will also include a panel which will focus on new financing tools and strategies for middle-income households. Representatives from nonprofit and for-profit development companies that are building mixed-income housing and a startup fund which is raising money for workforce housing will be in attendance.

Regarding community engagement, according to Xiomara Cisneros, community outreach manager for the real estate development firm Universal Paragon Corporation in San Francisco, the public process is broken. She says the California Environmental Quality Act, while well-intentioned in conception to preserve our open spaces, protect our environment, and hold poorly proposed projects accountable – has unfortunately become a tool for NIMBYs (“not-in-my-backyard” neighbors) to delay or stop projects.

The Housing the Bay Summit takes place from 8am to 5pm on Friday, March 23, 2018, at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.