San Francisco's housing crisis is so dire that nearly 7,000 people applied for 95 affordable apartments

  • More than 6,500 San Franciscans applied to live in a new affordable housing complex that had just 95 units, according to a New York Times report.
  • Winning residents pay anywhere from $US987 monthly for a one-bedroom to $US1,711 monthly for a three-bedroom.
  • The building’s competitive lottery is a microcosm for San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis.
  • Other American cities are facing similar affordable housing shortages.

San Francisco ranks as one of the most unaffordable cities in the United States.The median rent for a one-bedroom home is about $US1,750 per month – almost twice the national average of about $US940 per month.

That means many San Franciscans are struggling to find homes they can afford, and the number of available, affordable housing units don’t come close to meeting the city’s demand.

Take Natalie Gubb Commons, a new affordable apartment complex with one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. In 2017, the city of San Francisco launched a lottery for the apartments. Low-income renters who qualified could apply online to live there, and the city chose the winners at random.

The chances of winning were slim. According to a new report from The New York Times, 6,580 households applied for just 95 spots. That’s the equivalent of nearly 70 people for each unit.

The development, which was completed in 2017, is reserved for households with annual incomes up to 50% of the local median ($US40,350 for a one-person household). (There were 24 other units not included in the lottery, which will go to in-need households referred by the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) to the building’s nonprofit developer, Mercy Housing.)

Natalie gubb commonsMercy HousingA rendering of Natalie Gubb Commons, a new affordable housing complex in San Francisco, California.

To live there, the renters pay anywhere from $US987 per month for a one-bedroom unit to $US1,711 per month for a three-bedroom unit. Other one-bedrooms cost as much as $US1,234 monthly, but some apartment rents nearby are three times as much. Located near the city’s Financial District, Natalie Gubb Commons features a common area with a kitchen, on-site laundry, indoor bike rooms, and a landscaped courtyard.

The building’s competitive lottery is a microcosm for San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis, which has only grown worse in recent years.

As local outlet KRON notes, San Francisco is searching for different ways to create more low-cost housing. As of February 2018, the city had 1,000 affordable units in the pipeline, some of which were recently completed and others that are in development. The SFHA recently bought a downtown vacant building that it will renovate into at least 40 apartments for low-income households by 2021.

What’s considered “affordable” in San Francisco is relative. The city determines the rent prices of subsidized housing based on the local median household income – which is already relatively high, at about $US96,000 in the metro area. Nationally, that figure is about $US59,000.

Other American cities are also grappling with affordable housing shortages. The Times reports that in 2017, affordable housing developments across the country dealt with similarly competitive lotteries. Fifty-three households applied per each affordable unit at The Meridian in Los Angeles; 84 for every home at Parcel 25 in Boston; and 979 for every unit at Our Lady of Lourdes Apartments in New York City.

While these figures seem dire, San Francisco is dealing with a general lack of affordable housing that is starting to seriously impact the city.

Some San Franciscans are now choosing to abandon the city for less costly places. According to the US Census Bureau, San Francisco’s metro area lost more residents than it attracted between 2016 and 2017, with many claiming the out-of-control housing market as their reason for leaving.

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