What Is Affordable Housing
Types of Affordable Housing
Openhouse and Affordable Housing
Current Housing Opportunities List

Applying for Affordable Housing
Further Tips

Looking for Affordable Housing Now?

If you currently live in San Francisco (or are thinking of moving here) and need assistance finding affordable housing, be sure to attend one of our monthly housing workshops. Click here to find out more information, or join our affordable housing email list. We periodically send out emails whenever new wait-lists become available.

What Is Affordable Housing?

Affordable housing refers to housing that is designated as “below market rate.” The federal government, the city of San Francisco and various non-profit housing organizations underwrite the development and leasing of affordable housing throughout SF. As a tenant, you will pay a reduced monthly rent based on your income.

Types of Affordable Housing

There are several types of affordable housing in San Francisco.

SROs, or single room occupancies, are single rooms for rent that have shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, usually located on the same floor.

BMR, or “below market rate,” units have been funded by the city, federal government and/or non-profit organizations.  BMR units can comprise an entire building or be part of a complex that also includes market-rate housing.

Public housing is housing stock administered and maintained by the San Francisco Housing Authority and designated for low-income households.

Section 8 is a rental subsidy program whereby a tenant is given a voucher that they can use to rent from any landlord who will accept it.  The voucher enables them to pay an affordable percent of their income, while the San Francisco Housing Authority makes up the rest.

Rent control is a citywide policy that limits landlords from raising rent more than a certain percentage every year, currently 2.2%, for as long as you reside in your apartment.

Openhouse and Affordable Housing

Openhouse is working to build affordable senior housing with support services welcoming to LGBT seniors at 55 Laguna St. in San Francisco.  Please be sure to sign up for Openhouse newsletter if you are interested in 55 Laguna St.  You’ll receive updates on the project and the other exciting work of Openhouse.

In the meantime, Openhouse is committed to helping LGBT seniors find affordable housing opportunities and other services that meet their needs.  Please call our office at (415) 296-8995 or email us if you looking for housing or services.  As an Aging and Disability Resource Center for the LGBT Community, Openhouse is happy to provide information and assistance about housing, services and community-building programs that meet your needs.

Applying for Affordable Housing

Most affordable housing in San Francisco is built or managed by non-profit developers and city agencies.  In addition to browsing through our directory, a good strategy for researching possible housing opportunities is to contact these agencies and non-profits directly for the latest information on availability.

Asian, Inc.

Asian Neighborhood Design

Bridge Housing

Chinatown Community Development Center

Community Housing Partnership

Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development

Mercy Housing

Mission Housing Development Corporation

San Francisco Housing Authority

Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC)

Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO) Group

Once you’ve compiled a list of possible housing sites that look promising, your next step is to figure out what the application process entails.  Most housing sites will require you to submit an official application.

Find out what the income eligibility and demographic priorities are. Income eligibility is the minimum and/or maximum income you can earn to be eligible to live at a particular housing facility.  Demographic priorities are the population groups for whom the housing complex may have has units set aside (i.e. seniors, disabled residents, people living with HIV/AIDS).

Find out what the application procedures and deadlines are. Application procedures vary from site to site so be informed about what the deadlines and logistics are for each building that you’re applying to. For instance, some sites will only allow you to mail in applications, while others require you to drop them off in person.  Make sure you have the relevant addresses and telephone numbers for the buildings you want to submit applications to.

Gather together supporting documents, including telephone and electricity bills, ID cards, pay stubs and other paperwork attesting to your income and current place of residence.

Find out what the process for selecting tenants is. Some buildings will combine the application and selection processes together and select tenants based on a first come, first served basis.  Many buildings will set up a lottery system.

What is a lottery? A lottery is a process whereby residents will be randomly selected from a pool of submitted applications. Under a lottery system, submitting an application (along with supporting documents) is no guarantee of housing. Learn the timeframe for when applicants will find out whether they’ve been selected.  Submit your application and any supporting documents on time.

Sign up for waitlists. In many cases, you will find listings that say whether or not the facility has an open or closed waitlist.  What is a waitlist? A waitlist is a list compiled by housing sites so that they can contact people when vacancies arise.  Waitlists are either open or closed.

If the waitlist is closed that means there are no vacancies and they are not accepting further names for future openings.  If the waitlist is open that means that there are no available units but that the site is taking names of people to contact should a unit become available.

Further Tips

Apply to several housing sites and sign up for as many open waitlists as possible.  Because the demand for affordable housing is significant in San Francisco, your safest bet is to put yourself on several lists simultaneously.

Make sure you have all your relevant paperwork together–telephone and electricity bills, ID cards, pay stubs and other documents attesting to your income and current place of residence.

Be certain you have all the information you need around how to apply for vacancies and waitlist openings.  Take note of the locations and deadlines for picking up and handing in applications.  In many instances, the site being advertised is not necessarily where you will go to hand in your application.

Keep a list of contact information for previous landlords who can serve as a reference for you.

Keep copies of applications and check-in with building management at least once a year around waitlists.

Check back in with developers periodically around any openings.

Seek help from a social worker, case manager or other service provider who can assist you with housing referrals and applications.

For further questions and assistance, contact Abby Krumbein, Housing Coordinator at (415) 702-3537 or email her.

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