Have you ever wondered why the housing crisis persists, and the shortage of homes seems insurmountable? A few weeks ago, we delved into the intricacies of the housing crisis, shedding light on the challenges faced by developers in getting projects permitted and off the ground. Coincidentally, an investigative report in a San Francisco local newspaper recently explored the same issue, confirming our earlier insights. The headline of the report boldly declares, “Yes, it takes forever to build anything in San Francisco, and that is why luxury housing is all that gets built.”
Decoding “Forever” in San Francisco
Before we delve into the specifics of the investigative report, consider your instinctive thought on how long it takes to get permits in San Francisco. A few weeks, a few months, perhaps? Brace yourself for the reality, as the actual times between the planning department, department of building, and other city agencies involved in the approval process reveal a staggering timeline.
Unveiling the Bureaucratic Maze
For small-time builders in San Francisco, the bureaucratic journey spans three to four years before the construction process even commences. This is a significant contrast to what might take only a few months in other parts of the country. The entitlement and permitting process has evolved into an industry of its own, employing consultants and expeditors, a luxury only the wealthiest developers can afford.
Numbers Speak Louder Than Words
The investigative report meticulously scrutinized every permit issued in the last few years to unveil the shocking truth. On average, a multi-family development in San Francisco requires a daunting 627 calendar days for the permitting process, while a single-family dwelling demands a staggering 861 days. That’s over two and a half years for multi-family and more than two years for a single-family or duplex. And mind you, this clock doesn’t even start ticking until after the planning and entitlement process, adding further delays.
A Decade of Deterioration
Contrary to expectations, the permit times in San Francisco have not improved; instead, they’ve worsened. The report notes an 83 percent increase in permit times since 2012. In a world where technology and automation strive for efficiency, the housing crisis in San Francisco seems to be immune to these advancements.
Luxury Housing: A Profitable Compromise
Why does luxury housing dominate the landscape? The answer lies not just in greed but in profitability. The extended permitting times force developers to calculate significant carrying costs, including taxes, insurance, interest, ownership fees, and fixed overhead. These costs make building affordable or entry-level housing financially unviable.
A Glimpse into the Future
The report concludes with a disheartening revelation: in the last decade, 270 projects in San Francisco took more than four years to secure their approvals. As a reader, contractor, or someone invested in the housing market, what are your thoughts on this issue? Have you experienced challenges with permitting in your locality? Do you believe streamlining efforts have improved or worsened in recent years? Share your insights on how this bureaucratic maze might impact housing markets in various areas.
The housing crisis is a complex issue, and understanding the hurdles, like the prolonged permitting process, is crucial to finding sustainable solutions. Let’s engage in a conversation about the challenges and potential remedies to pave the way for a more accessible and robust housing market.