Report: More than 80 applicants for every low-income SF rental

San Francisco had nearly 82 applicants for every one of the 1,025 low-income housing rentals it had available last year, according to a new report.

That number is only the latest indicator of the housing crisis San Francisco has experienced in recent years and was included in a 40-page report submitted to the Board of Supervisors earlier this month by Kate Hartley, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. The department’s $288 million budget funds housing programs and services including construction.

It comes as city officials are expressing frustration over the pace of approval for affordable housing projects and raising alarms about rising construction costs hampering affordable housing production.

Mayor Mark Farrell is expected on Tuesday to announce working groups to recommend by July 31 ways to reduce costs and speed up affordable housing construction. And Supervisor Hillary Ronen will introduce legislation Tuesday to require city departments to prioritize approval of 100 percent affordable housing projects and submit quarterly status reports to the Board of Supervisors.

Hartley wrote that the report for fiscal year 2016-2017 was submitted “in honor of the late Mayor Edwin M. Lee, ” and highlights progress made toward a goal set by the late mayor in 2014 to “produce or preserve 10,000 affordable homes for low-income San Franciscans by 2020.”

“We are on track to fulfill that goal, with over 6,000 units completed and more than 4,000 in our pipeline,” she wrote.

The report said, “As of July 1, 2017, the City has achieved a new/preserved unit count of 5,949 affordable units, 35 percent of the 16,938 units produced since 2014.”

The 6,000 units completed include 1,848 new affordable housing units, which includes very low-income senior housing, family housing, and supportive housing for formerly homeless residents, counted toward the goal. And there are also 610 units of existing affordable housing that “were significantly rehabilitated to extend their useful lives and preserve affordability.”

The largest number of affordable housing units counted toward the goal are the “3,491 public housing units, which the San Francisco Housing Authority (with MOHCD assistance) transferred to community-based non-profits for the purpose of completing substantial rehabilitations” under the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance Demonstration program, or RAD.

One clear indicator of San Francisco’s housing crisis has been the sheer demand illustrated through housing lotteries for affordable units.

“In 2017, MOHCD conducted 104 housing lotteries,” the report said. “Over 85,000 households applied for 1,210 units of affordable housing through the MOHCD housing lottery system. Low- to moderate-income hopeful homeowners submitted 1,510 applications for 185 units and 83,733 very low- to low-income households applied for 1,025 rentals.” For low-income applicants for rentals, that works out to be about 81.6 applicants per unit.

The report also highlights upcoming housing projects and other efforts such as securing loans for first-time homebuyers or buying properties under the small sites acquisition program.

The department provided financial assistance in fiscal year 2016-2017 for 201 households purchasing their first home in San Francisco, including three police officers and 12 teachers.

Grants totaling $6.6 million were provided to nonprofits for eviction prevention services, including legal representation for 4,358 residents and tenant education and counseling for an additional 3,320 households.

The department loaned $22.6 million to assist three nonprofits to acquire and rehabilitate 10 properties with 63 residential and seven commercial units under the Small Sites Program.

The report also points to ongoing projects that will construct more affordable housing with voter-approved bond money including 108 units of family affordable housing with retail at 500 Turk St. in the Tenderloin and 143 units of family affordable housing and artist work space at 1990 Folsom St. in the Mission.

As for Ronen’s legislation, it will require city departments to appoint a person to help speed affordable projects through the approval process. Quarterly reports on the status of projects would also be required beginning in July.

Her proposal comes after an April board committee hearing when Ronen expressed frustration over delays in building more than 700 below market rate units planned for the Mission.

Farrell’s expected announcement of three public-private housing working groups comes after he met at City Hall Monday with city agencies, contractors, architects and labor representatives to discuss affordable housing.

“I am directing these working groups to find real, actionable solutions to the affordability problems that are causing gridlock in our housing production,” Farrell said in a statement. “We cannot provide affordable homes for our families if we cannot afford to build these homes to begin with.”

Joshua Sabatini
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Joshua Sabatini

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