By Oscar Perry Abello.
Construction cranes are some of the most visible signs of change in a city — teasing new office space, new hotels, new housing. The taller they are, the longer their shadow (figuratively and literally). And those who are most worried about the often unintended effects of urban development might opt for measures like proposed moratoriums on new construction. But that might be barking up the wrong crane, according to new analysis from D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute.
The vast majority of luxury housing sales in San Francisco have come from existing housing stock, according to the Institute. In other words, construction cranes and the new housing they represent aren’t the root cause of the city’s affordable housing crisis.
“Some blame the rapid rise in million-dollar homes on developers’ greed — building large, luxury condominiums, they say, leads to gentrification and pricier homes,” writes the Urban Institute’s Graham MacDonald. And yet, as he points out, “in 2016, at the height of the million-dollar home market of the past eight years, only 10 percent of home sales worth a million dollars or more were located in new complexes.”
The analysis suggests that a moratorium on new construction would hardly make a difference to reverse the tide on San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis. It might even make it worse, given the regional demand for housing.