Creating Affordable Housing in San Francisco

The average person in California spends about 1,340 dollars on rent each month for their residence, which is only half of the average for what San Francisco residents pay each month for a one or two bedroom apartment (rentcafe.com). San Francisco, California is currently the most expensive city to live in in the United States. In the Bay area, rent ranges from 2,500 to 5,200 dollars each month making it hard for residents to pay their bills. However, this problem is nothing new for long time San Francisco residents. Sadly, housing is something that many residents in the Bay Area have struggled with for several years. Creating affordable housing in San Francisco will be beneficial to residents because it will allow them to afford rent and would most likely lower the percent of homelessness in the city. Affordable housing is a necessity for lower income families in San Francisco and can be improved by with the help of current policies and the construction of new units.

According to sfgate.com, “San Francisco requires the most income to reach a comfort level determined by the 50-30-20 budgeting rule. Under the rule, 50 percent of income covers necessities, 30 percent covers discretionary items and 20 percent is for savings.” However a new study by Attom Data Solution revealed that most people in the San Francisco/Marin County spend more than 77 percent of their yearly earnings on rent, which is around 39 percent more than the national average and 27 percent more than the “50-30-20” budget leaving many residents with very little money for other necessities (sfgate.com). Currently the amount needed to live comfortably in San Francisco and comply with the “50-30-20” budget you have to make around 110k a year.

Those who make lower than 110k, such as students, non-graduates, teachers, cops, and anyone else who isn’t working for some big corporation , are considered lower income and often have a very difficult time surviving in the Bay Area. According to glassdoor.com, on average most cops make around 82 thousand dollars and teachers make around 68 thousand. Those who make the least amount of money are college students. College students make anywhere from 1000 to 2000 dollars a month, before taxes, depending on their hourly wage and whether they are a part or full time student. A student’s yearly income ranges from 12 to 24 thousand dollars a year making them extremely low income.

Due to the overtly high prices for rent, many residents often live check by check leaving them little to no money for savings or other necessities. According to rentcafe.com, a studio apartment is 2500 dollars, a place with 1 bedroom is 3,200 dollars, 2 bedrooms is 4,400 dollars, and a 3 bedrooms is 5,200. Nbcbayarea.com reports “The average rent in San Francisco is 3,500 dollars a month,” meaning that the average person living in San Francisco pays at least 42 thousand dollars a year for housing excluding utilities. The average amount of rent is almost twice the amount of what a college student makes and more than half of what teachers make.

Though everyone in San Francisco is affected by the cost of rent, the people who are most affected are minorities. On average an African American families make about 29,500 dollars a year (sfchronicle.com). Sfchronical.com also reports that “In San Francisco — one of the most expensive cities in the country — African Americans make less than those in San Bernardino County, the most affordable part of the state.” Additionally, a recent study done by missionlocal.org on Latino families located in the mission district says “77 percent of the 447 who answered the household income question – reported earning less than $35,000 a year, and nearly all spend more than half their income on rent”. Minorities are making 75 thousand dollars less that what is required to live a decent life.

One way that people are surviving in SF with such low income, is by sharing the cost of rent. From my experience living in SF, 80 percent of the people that I know have roomates. This includes: college advisors, friends, teachers, social workers, etc. You will find that many people in SF share a house or apartment with two or more roommates. This way instead of paying 3,000 to 4,000 dollars on rent, they split the cost and only pay 1,000 to 1,500 each plus utilities. But, for those who can’t find housing and make very little yearly salaries, which isn’t uncommon, the often struggle a lot and sometimes become homeless. Currently San Francisco ranks #2 in the United States for homelessness, New York being #1(abcnews.com). According to abc7news.com there are reportedly 750 per 100,000 people who are homeless in San Francisco. “ An estimated 34 percent of homeless survey respondents were black, even though African-Americans make up only six percent of the city’s overall population” says sf.curbed.com.

Though we already have affordable housing, the city has acknowledged that we need more. In 2017 The Board of Supervisors passed The Affordable Housing Bonus Program, now know as “Home SF” (sf.curbed.com). Sf.curbed.com claims the passing of this program allowed “Home SF to be able to create 5,000 units of affordable housing over 20 years”. Recently San Francisco has been working on a plan to create more affordable housing for lower and middle income residents. According to Sfmohcd.org “Mayor London N. Breed announced a commitment of $100 million in City funding to purchase affordable housing made using modular construction built in San Francisco”. Not only will this create more affordable housing, but it will create more union jobs.

Some of the current programs and policies that we have in San Francisco are: Affordable Housing and Finance Development(AHFD), Inclusionary Housing(IH), Public Housing(PH), Rent Control(RC), Rental Subsidies, Preference Program, Homeowners Assistance, and Homebuyer Assistance (housing.datasf.org). AHFD program uses equity finance or debt to pay for the construction of affordable housing, IH require housing projects to have affordable units or they have to pay a fine, RC is a policy that manages rent adjustments and evictions done by private landlords. Essentially all of these policies and programs are geared towards affordable housing whether it be building more housing, helping owners buy, or protecting residents from private landlords.

There are many different pathways that California can take to move forward with better housing. For example, they could create more programs and policies catered to minorities that make under 40,000 a year. The steps I am proposing that we take are creating more affordable housing by taking two or three story buildings and converting them into 9 or ten story buildings. Being that one of the problem with creating more housing is space, I think this would be a good idea because it will allow for more housing without requiring more space. Secondly, we need to reduce the cost of constructing these affordable housing units. Finding a way to cut construction cost could lower the cost of housing. Since it will be cheaper to build they won’t need to charge as much in order to get their money’s worth. Lastly, we need to construct housing faster than we are now. We do not have the time to wait five or ten years for housing to be built, residents need it now.

Overall, the price of housing in San Francisco has become extremely out of control to the point where people who are making six figures can barely afford to live here. Due to rent, many residents are not able to live comfortably and aren’t able to save for their futures. The fact that people making under 1110k is considered lower income is insane. What’s also insane is that minorities are making less than 40,000 a year which is 50,000 to 70,000 less than caucasians (sfchronicle.com). Creating more affordable housing will give many the opportunity to be able to afford more than just rent. It will give them the opportunity to save money for emergencies, have family nights, and buy a couple of luxurious items that they deserve.

Over the past few pages, I have highlighted the problems with housing in the Bay Area specifically San Francisco. Although there are many solutions to this problem, the regulation I have proposed, creating more housing quicker and cheaper, is by far the best option. It would prove beneficial for most people, and for the generation who will be eventually be controlling and taking care of our future. We must stop rent from escalating and create more affordable housing.