SF sees sharp increase of families living in SROs, report says

The number of families residing in residential hotels in San Francisco has more than doubled since 2001, and many face squalid living conditions and other hardships, according to a report released Thursday by a group of community-based organizations.

The report, “Living in the Margins: An analysis and Census of San Francisco Families in SRO Hotels,” was compiled by Single Room Occupancy Hotel Families United, a collaboration of organizations that include Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinese Progressive Association, South of Market Community Action Network, Coalition on Homelessness and Dolores Street Community Street.

As San Francisco’s cost of housing has steadily risen by 25 percent in the past four years, low-income families are relying more and more on residential hotels, or SROs, according to the report.

In fact, since 2001 there has been an increase of 55 percent — or 249 families — living in SROs throughout The City, the report found. That brings the total number of families in such homes to just under 700.

Of those families, nearly half (48 percent) reported their health had been negatively impacted by living there, according to the report.

Neighborhoods that saw an increase of families living in SROs include Chinatown (14 percent) and South of Market (5.4 percent). The Mission however, saw a decrease of nearly 9 percent, while the majority of SRO families live in Chinatown (74 percent).

“These are the facts that motivate me to keep fighting for more affordable housing and to protect the invaluable rent-controlled housing that we already have,” Supervisor Jane Kim said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner.

“In San Francisco alone, 700 families are living in one-room single-room-occupancy hotels – almost 90 percent of them are working and still can’t afford a decent home,” she added.

And living in an SRO can be challenging, as well unhealthy, the report found. The majority of families who live in SROs are immigrants – 62 percent come from China or Hong Kong.

Separately, 14 percent of the heads of households in SROs are fluent in English. Many live with disabled family members or in units with bed bugs, rodents and dirty shared bathrooms.

The report also listed numerous recommendations to help families gain access to better below-market-rate housing, including strengthening labor laws, expanding employment training and targeting city jobs for limited English speakers.
Improving transportation for SRO families, including connecting them to the Presidio with a shuttle service or providing free transportation to parks outside of San Francisco, was also recommended.

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