Despite a significant increase during the past decade, the number of housing permits issued still remains well below levels in the 1970s and 1980s.
Bay Area cities and counties issued permits for approximately 28,500 housing units in 2022. This total is almost 5 times the number of permits issued in 2009, when housing permits issued reached a historic bottom during the Great Recession. Notably, the 2022 total is approximately 12% less than the nearly 33,000 permits issued just four years prior in 2018, a decline that may reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of housing permits issued in 2018 represents the largest number of housing permits issued since the 1980s.
Multi-family housing accounted for 73% of all permits issued in 2022, consistent with trends over the past decade where multi-family housing has represented the majority of permits. In highly urbanized counties like San Francisco and Alameda, the share is even higher, with permits for multi-family units accounting for 95% and 74% of all permits in 2022, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Marin, Napa and Solano counties issued far more permits for single-family units than multi-family units, with single-family permits representing 97% of permits issued in Marin County, 49% of permits issued in Napa County and 58% of permits issued in Solano County.
In the Bay Area in 2018 housing permits were issued for 32,500 units, the highest in the past three decades
Historical Trend for Housing Permits
In 2021, approximately one in five units for which permits were issued could be classified as affordable housing – that is, housing affordable to very-low-income and low-income households.
In 2021, 19% of units for which permits were issued will be for affordable to very-low-income or low-income households, well below the share of very-low-income and low-income households currently living in the region. Jurisdictions in Santa Clara County in aggregate led the region in affordable housing permits issued, issuing permits for over 1,200 affordable units in 2021. Please refer to the methodology section at the bottom of this page for the income threshold definitions.
In the Bay Area in 2021, housing permits were issued for 4,700 units affordable to very-low-income and low-income households
Housing Permits by Affordability Level (2021)
San Francisco continues to lead the region in housing permits issued, the vast majority of which are for multi-family housing.
Though San Jose is the region’s largest city by population, San Francisco issues by far the highest number of housing permits of any Bay Area city. Between 2020 and 2022, San Francisco issued nearly 11,400 housing permits, more than double the approximately 4,200 permits issued in San Jose. While 96% of permits issued in San Francisco during this time were for multi-family housing, multi-family housing comprised 67% of the permits in San Jose, reflecting the differences in development trends in the region’s two largest cities.
Across the region, the cities issuing the most housing permits tend to issue the vast majority of permits for multi-family housing. However, single-family housing still represents the majority of permits issued in fast-growing communities on the edges of the region in Solano County and eastern Contra Costa County. For example, Antioch was the only city among the top 10 cities with the most permits issued between 2020 and 2022 where the majority of permits issued (73%) were for single-family housing.
3,800units per year
In San Francisco between 2020 and 2022, housing permits were issued at an average rate of 3,800 units per year
Housing Permits by City and Unincorporated Area by Decade
Despite increases over the past decade, the Bay Area continues to issue permits for housing at a slower rate than most major metro areas.
In 2021, the Bay Area had one of the lowest rates for housing permits issued per capita among major metro areas. Metro areas in the Sunbelt continue to have among the highest rates of housing permits issued in the country, with Austin, Phoenix and Dallas issuing the most housing permits per capita. Phoenix and Dallas issued more than three times as many permits per capita as the Bay Area in 2021. Like other metro areas across the southern United States, the majority of permits issued in the Phoenix and Dallas regions were for single-family homes. The Austin metro area is somewhat of an outlier, with by far the highest rate of housing permits issued per capita (seven times greater than the Bay Area), and with multi-family units comprising about half of permits issued in 2021.
Counter to trends in previous decades, in 2021 the majority of large metro areas issued most of their permits for multi-family units. This pattern exists across a diversity of geographies: New York, Philadelphia and Boston in the northeast, all three of California’s largest metro areas, Seattle and Denver in the west, and Miami in the southeast.
22units / 1k residents
In the Austin metro area in 2021, housing permits were issued at a rate of 22 units per 1,000 residents
3units / 1k residents
In the Bay Area in 2021, housing permits were issued at a rate of 3 units per 1,000 residents
Metro Comparison for Housing Permits
Sources & Methodology
Bay Area housing permits data by single/multi family come from the California Housing Foundation/Construction Industry Research Board (CIRB). Affordability breakdowns from 2014 to 2021 come from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Housing Permits Database.
Single-family housing units include detached, semi-detached, row house and town house units. Row houses and town houses are included as single-family units when each unit is separated from the adjacent unit by an unbroken ground-to-roof party or fire wall. Condominiums are included as single-family units when they are of zero-lot-line or zero-property-line construction; when units are separated by an air space; or, when units are separated by an unbroken ground-to-roof party or fire wall. Multi-family housing includes duplexes, three-to-four-unit structures and apartment-type structures with five units or more. Multi-family also includes condominium units in structures of more than one living unit that do not meet the single-family housing definition.
Each multi-family unit is counted separately even though they may be in the same building. Total units is the sum of single-family and multi-family units. County data is available from 1967 whereas city data is available from 1990. City data is only available for incorporated cities and towns. All permits in unincorporated cities and towns are included under their respective county’s unincorporated total. Permit data is not available for years when the city or town was not incorporated.
Affordable housing is the total number of permitted units affordable to low and very low income households. Housing affordable to very low income households are households making below 50% of the area median income. Housing affordable to low income households are households making between 50% and 80% of the area median income. Housing affordable to moderate income households are households making below 80% and 120% of the area median income. Housing affordable to above moderate income households are households making above 120% of the area median income.
Permit data is missing for the following cities and years:
San Ramon, 1990
Building permit data for metropolitan areas for each year is the sum of non-seasonally adjusted monthly estimates from the Census Building Permit Survey. The Bay Area values are the sum of the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA. The counties included in these areas are: San Francisco, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Benito.
Permit values reflect the number of units permitted in each respective year. Note that the data columns come from difference sources. The columns (SFunits, MFunits, TOTALunits, SF_Share and MF_Share) are sourced from CIRB. The columns (VeryLowunits, Lowunits, Moderateunits, AboveModerateunits, VeryLow_Share, Low_Share, Moderate_Share, AboveModerate_Share, Affordableunits and Affordableunits_Share) are sourced from the ABAG Housing Permits Database. Due to the slightly different methodologies that exist within each of those datasets, the total units from each of the two sources might not be consistent with each other.
As shown, three different data sources are used for this analysis of housing permits issued in the Bay Area. Data from the Construction Industry Research Board (CIRB) represents the best available data source for examining housing permits issued over time in cities and counties across the Bay Area, dating back to 1967. In recent years, Annual Progress Report (APR) data collected by the California Department of Housing and Community Development has been available for analyzing housing permits issued by affordability levels. Since CIRB data is only available for California jurisdictions, the U.S. Census Bureau provides the best data source for comparing housing permits issued across different metropolitan areas. Notably, annual permit totals for the Bay Area differ across these three data sources, reflecting the limitations of needing to use different data sources for different purposes.
California Housing Foundation/Construction Industry Research Board (CIRB)
Construction Review report (1967-2022)
Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
Housing Permits Database (2014-2021)
Census Bureau Building Permit Survey
Building permits by county (annual, monthly)