San Francisco has more than 7,000 units of supportive housing. According to city officials, residents at around 2,000 of those units are paying more than 30 percent of their incomes in rent. (Lola Chase/ S.F. Examiner)

Homeless director says thousands pay excessive rents in supportive housing

Increased subsidies on affordable units could cost The City nearly $8M a year

Affordable housing is generally defined as paying no more than a third of one’s income on rent, but in San Francisco thousands of the lowest-income residents are paying more than that for city-funded supportive housing.

The issue has gained attention recently through a hunger-strike by Jordan Davis, a single-room occupancy tenant and member of The City’s SRO Task Force. Supervisor Matt Haney is considering a subsidy proposal to draw the rents down to 30 percent of a tenant’s income.

On Thursday, Haney asked Jeff Kositsky, Director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, to address the issue during the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing on Mayor London Breed’s $12.3 billion budget proposal.

Kositsky said that the department has about 2,000 units under where households are paying in excess of 30 percent of their income. The City has a supportive housing portfolio of 7,700 units.

“In order to fix that, it would cost The City at least $4 million a year in general fund dollars moving forward, raising incrementally over time as costs go up,” Kositksy said.

There are also a number of units through the Care Not Cash program under the Human Services Agency that would take an additional $4 million to reduce rents to 30 pecent of a person’s income, according to Haney. Some of these tenants have 90 percent of their benefits go towards rent, he said.

Kositsky said that his department was “fixing that incrementally” by using federal Section 8 vouchers through the San Francisco Public Housing Authority, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but that agency’s fiscal mismanagement has frozen the issuance of additional vouchers.

“We had been working with the Housing Authority to put in project-based vouchers into many of those units however the Housing Authority is currently not issuing any new vouchers,” Kositsky said. “At present moment we don’t have any plans during the next fiscal year to address this issue.”

According to HUD’s standard, “Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.”

Haney said that “I often hear from my constituents that they are paying over 50 percent of their income in rent in some of the master lease SROs.”

Kositsky said that the issue is “primarily in our single adult permanent affordable housing portfolio.”

“I do not believe that there are any family units or [Transitional Age Youth ] designated units in which households are paying more than 30 percent of their income to rent,” Kositsky said.

He said that “all of the new housing that we brought on board since we started as a department in 2016 tenants pay 30 percent of their income to rent.”

”Moving forward, all new housing that we open residents will be paying 30 percent of their income to rent,” Kositksy said.

Haney is requesting through the Board of Supevisors Budget and Finance Committee’s review of Mayor London Breed’s budget $7.5 million in each of the next two fiscal years to lower the rents.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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