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July 28, 2017

SF apartment construction way down

Turns out the good times may last for never

San Francisco is building more, everybody agrees on that. But how much is more—and for that matter, how much is enough?

The apartment rental site RENTCafe tapped research firm Yardi Matrix to take stock of the city’s new housing stock last week. And the numbers look superficially good: The Bay Area as a whole should yield 5,415 new apartments by the end of this year, with 1,860 in San Francisco itself.

The next biggest contributor is Oakland, with 599 new units, and then Berkeley with 402. Pleasanton ranked fourth place with 345 on the block.

The catch is, Yardi Matrix says that rate of construction is down 12 percent year over year. And in San Francisco it’s down 48 percent.

Last year the Bay Area-wide product came to almost 6,200, which RENTCafe credits with putting the skids on space shuttle-velocity rent increases.

“While demand is still strong in the city, this flood of new rentals [put] a damper on incessant rent growth,” RENTCafe’s Ama Otet writes.

That might seem like a generous assessment by renters, who have seen only nickel-and-dime savings on a barely noticeable wavelength since 2016, as rents remain the highest in the country.

Shannon Mollerus

On the other hand, Otet points out that, while rents went up 49 percent since 2012, the last 18 months have seen a slight decrease. A small break, sure, but a little bit for which to be grateful.

Part of the slowdown is just on account of 2016 being a banner year for new construction. Paragon Real Estate—assessing both new rental apartments as well as built-for-sale homes—estimated some 4,000 new homes finished last year, after 2,500 in 2015 and 3,500 in 2014.

Compare this to the most recent Paragon report pegging incoming stock at 2,700 new homes this year with for-purchase condos included. (Although Paragon’s number also excludes new developments of 60 or fewer units.)

On paper, lots is happening. The city has issued permits for more than 39,000 new homes, but nearly 80 percent of them are in huge-ticket developments like Treasure Island and Hunters Point and may not wrap up until 2040 or later.

Those expected to finish in the next four years come out to less than 8,000.

But at least we’re still beating out 2012, back when the city produced only 1,279 new homes, equivalent to one unit per 10.5 new residents that year.

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