San Francisco has different legal definitions of housing in its complex planning code. What we most commonly think of as urban housing is blandly called a “dwelling unit”. But there are other types, including “single-room occupancy” (SRO) units (small hotel rooms); and “group housing.” What are the differences between the three? Simply, the Planning Code requires that a dwelling unit have an oven while the other two do not. What is group housing? Think of it as a very small living and sleeping space that shares a common kitchen or other shared living space with other residents. Think of senior or institutional housing and a more affordable product.
This is the background for legislation introduced a few weeks ago by Supervisors John Avalos and Jane Kim that will begin public hearings soon. It proposes to eliminate the exemption group housing currently has from the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO). The legislation states that group housing was always intended to be subject to the IHO and its exemption was an oversight that needs to be corrected.
The legislation was probably triggered by the appearance of new market-rate group housing proposals. Whether these first projects predict a future flood of group housing looking to take advantage of the IHO exemption is not certain.
It’s not clear from the legislation’s language whether group housing would be subject to the same IHO obligation that currently applies to high-end housing in tall buildings. It is worth considering that group housing are small units with shared kitchens and living spaces. Would the legislation impede production of a generally less expensive housing type? Also, would the legislation apply to projects that have already submitted permit applications?
Image credit: 1532 Harrison Street Website