Q&A Gabrief Metcalf: Is the housing crisis too big to solve?

When Gabriel Metcalf suggested at a forum on affordable housing that cities should be penalized by the state for failing to build enough housing, he drew gasps from fellow panelists.

It’s not that the other panelists disagreed with Metcalf, who as president and CEO of SPUR, is one of the Bay Area’s better-known housing advocates. It’s just that no one else had been willing to make the suggestion.

We talked to Metcalf to discuss the region’s housing crisis and some strategies that might fix it. As the head of SPUR — the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association — Metcalf is in the thick of the housing conversation. That makes sense: Over the decades, SPUR — which has offices in San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland — has helped catalyze some of the region’s critical policy moves, from the founding of BART to the preservation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q The housing crisis rises from a thicket of seemingly intractable problems. How do you stay motivated?

A The good news is that we have the power to make the Bay Area much more affordable than it is. It might not be something where we ever feel like it’s fully solved, but it could be much better than it is now. And so in that sense, it’s different from some other problems, like cutting carbon emissions where only action at the global scale can address the problem, or even income inequality, where…

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