The Bay Area faces no challenge more vexing or vast than the need to create hundreds of thousands of new housing units, at all price levels, in ways that don’t undermine the cultural and environmental traits that make this region so desirable.

The topic inflames local politics and is dissected by think tanks. Newcomers vent from one perspective, longtime residents from another. The crush of high housing prices forces families and young adults to pack up and leave, fraying connections with relatives and friends.

The problem can seem overwhelming. In many ways, it is — every partial remedy faces obstacles of its own.

There’s no better example of this than the complexities that cloud perhaps the least controversial option for creating new homes: putting a new apartment or two in an existing building or backyard.

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