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San Francisco to move forward with modular housing for homeless

Mayor’s Office of Housing proposes prefab apartments to beat deadline for new development

Federal parking lot at 1068 Mission will transform into modular housing.
Federal parking lot at 1068 Mission will transform into modular housing.
Screen grab via Google Street Views

Earlier this year, San Francisco purchased a federal parking lot at 1068 Mission with the hope of building housing for the homeless on the site.

Now the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Mayor’s Office of Housing will commission modular apartments to replace the lot, possibly creating hundreds of new units of emergency housing in a matter of months if the experiment goes as planned.

In May the Boards of Supervisors approved acquiring the property, which sits behind the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The resolution reads in part:

There were an estimated 1,700 chronically homeless individuals counted during the 2015 Point in Time Homeless Count. [...] Property owned by the United States, located in the County of San Francisco, State of California, has been declared surplus and is subject to assignment for disposal for homeless serving purposes.

At the time City Hall estimated that the property could hold roughly 250 new homes, making it the largest public housing project for the homeless in the entire city.

(Under a 1987 federal law any time the city acquires land from the federal government it must consider how to use the property for homeless service first.)

On Wednesday, Kate Hartley, acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, said that the city will tap modular housing developers, like Factory OS, to create new homes as quickly as possible.

“Our goal is to build units as fast as possible, so we can get people off the streets as fast as possible,” says Hartley.

But it’s not just the immediacy of the homeless problem or a sudden taste for innovation motivating the move. The city is on a deadline.

The federal government agreed to turn the unwanted parking space over for the bargain price of $1, but only with the condition that the city promises to build within three years.