Jun 27, 2023 - News

San Francisco rolls out string of new affordable housing initiatives

Photo of a silhouetted person standing in an empty room as they look out at the SF City Hall building

An apartment overlooking San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

San Francisco is pushing out a swath of initiatives under its "Home by the Bay" plan as new research highlights high housing costs as a key factor behind homelessness.

Driving the news: The city announced Friday the acquisition of five sites that will serve as locations for over 550 affordable homes across neighborhoods in Bernal Heights, Sunset, Potrero Hill, Alamo Square and Forest Hill. Residents are expected to move in by the end of 2028.

  • The announcement came one day after the grand opening of Casa Adelante, a 130-unit affordable housing development in the Mission.
  • This month, the city celebrated the groundbreaking of a new 112-unit affordable housing project called The Kelsey Civic Center.
  • It also acquired another building for young adults exiting homelessness, its fourth in 1.5 years, and launched a new initiative to convert unused office space to housing.

The big picture: The city has set the goal of building 82,000 new homes over the next eight years in a bid to address its homelessness crisis.

  • Local community leaders have lauded recent affordable housing developments, but public policy experts warn that building housing alone won't solve the problem.
  • A recent statewide study conducted by the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI) found that in addition to cost, lack of case management and housing navigation assistance serve as barriers to regaining housing for people who are homeless.
  • An overwhelming majority of participants said a lump-sum payment of $5,000-$10,000 or a rental subsidy would help them re-enter housing; 80% also said a housing navigator would "help a lot."

What they're saying: Tiana Moore, BHHI's policy director, told Axios that there is such a statewide deficit in permanent housing that it will take a coordinated effort with the state and federal government to increase the production of housing units while preserving their affordability, especially for extremely low-income households.

Of note: The Bay Area has long faced criticism for its crisis response management, which is "marked by insufficient housing inventory, overlapping mandates, minimal coordination and many holes through which vulnerable individuals fall," notes a McKinsey report published in March.

  • Data obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle shows that the city has severely underspent hundreds of millions of dollars budgeted for tackling its homelessness crisis.
  • "​​We have a lot more work to do to remove barriers to getting housing built faster and advancing more affordable housing," Mayor London Breed said in a written statement last week commending recent housing acquisitions.

Zoom out: In the Bay Area, 38,000 people are homeless on any given night — that's up 35% from 2019, per the McKinsey report.

  • California's homeless population predominantly comprises people who lived in the state prior to losing housing, according to the UCSF study.

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