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Housing

Would Capping Office Space Ease San Francisco’s Housing Crunch?

Proposition E would put a moratorium on new commercial real estate if affordable housing goals aren’t met. But critics aren’t convinced it would be effective.   
Office towers vie with new high-end residential construction in San Francisco, home of America's least-affordable housing market.
Office towers vie with new high-end residential construction in San Francisco, home of America's least-affordable housing market.Michael Short/Bloomberg

Voters in San Francisco will soon weigh a Solomonic compromise on housing in the city: a zero-sum building moratorium that ties new office space to affordable housing.

Proposition E, a measure coming up on the primary ballot in March, would limit future office growth in San Francisco as a function of the city’s shortfall of new affordable housing. Under this new accounting, in any year that the city fails to live up to its state-mandated obligation to approve new affordable housing, the legal cap on new office space would be lowered by the same degree. A miss on housing would mean a proportionate dip in new office space.