Across the United States, very low-income renters face some pretty dismal options: For every 100 households, there are only 28 adequate and affordable units available for families earning 30 percent of the area median income or less. San Francisco doesn't come close to meeting that need, either, but the (slightly) good news is that we're doing better than most, according to a new report (PDF) from the Urban Institute. In San Francisco, there are 36 affordable apartments for every 100 extremely low-income ("ELI") households, who earned no more than $31,650 for a family of four in 2013. The report uses census data, among other sources, to compare the availability of housing affordable to ELI renters in three time periods—2000, 2005-7, and 2011-13—and gauge how well the US is meeting the needs of its poorest families. The bad news is that not a single county in the nation has an adequate number of affordable units for its most in-need renters; a whopping 72 percent of these families are burdened with housing costs that are too high.
Even though San Francisco meets just over a third of the need, only seven other counties in the nation do a better job of housing ELI renters. The top seven counties are all on the East Coast, in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Washington, DC. (And the worst performers are largely in the South and Southwest, in Georgia and Texas—though San Joaquin, California, also makes this particular shitlist, with 14 adequate units per 100 poor renters.) In the Bay Area, Alameda County comes the closest to San Francisco's performance, managing 26 affordable rentals per 100 extremely low-income families. Trailing behind are Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties (both at 24), Marin at 23, and San Mateo at 19. There's a handy map that lets you check it all out on the Urban Institute website.
San Francisco's comparatively good performance is not a result of a lower poverty rate. "Counterintuitively, some counties with the most expensive housing markets—including Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, DC—have the smallest gap in units affordable to ELI renters," the report's authors write. "For the most part, these results reflect a higher proportion of rental units targeted to ELI renters, not fewer ELI renters. The higher share of affordable units may reflect a local, state, or federal decision to focus on ELI households."
And now for more bad news: San Francisco has actually gotten worse at housing its ELI renters since the last decade. The number of the city's poorest renters barely budged between 2005-7 and 2011-13, but the number of adequate and affordable units fell by more than 5,000. The report counts units available with HUD assistance and those created by the private market, and the Urban Institute's map lets you see the numbers with federal assistance turned on and off. Ten of San Francisco's 36 affordable rentals available in 2011-13 were created by the private market, down from 20 in 2005-7.
Between 2005 and 2007, the number of units affordable for the city's poorest renters hit its peak, at 44 apartments per 100 families. Now, at 36, SF has fallen back down near its 2000 level, when 35 units were affordable for the neediest renters. And with rent continuing to get more expensive in this town, we'll need to up our housing production if we even want to keep housing 36 out of every 100 renters at sustainable rents.
More dismally (sorry, it's that kind of day), San Francisco does an even worse job producing housing for the middle than it does for low-income families. As you may recall, between 2007 and 2014 San Francisco granted permits to just 16 percent of the moderate-income units called for by the Regional Housing Need Allocation.
· The Housing Affordability Gap for Extremely Low-Income Renters in 2013 (PDF) [Urban Institute]
· Every Single Part of the Bay Area Is Unaffordable on $15/Hour [Curbed SF]
· Sad Chart Confirms SF Isn't Adding New Housing Fast Enough [Curbed SF]