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The Coalition on Homelessness is a proud member of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO). As part of National Housing Month, STREET SHEET is reprinting portions of CCHO’s recent publication: Making Housing Affordable for All San Franciscans. CCHO’s document was created as an educational tool to garner support for both affordable housing and community and faith based non-profit development corporations.

Housing is one of our common necessities.

Because San Francisco is such a desirable city, housing can be so expensive that it threatens our ability to make choices and maintain our quality of life. Nonprofit, community based organizations build housing that is truly affordable as part of a comprehensive mission to empower and serve our communities. This is housing affordable to our children and grandchildren, our parents and grandparents, our neighbors and you who are reading this. Building housing that is truly affordable is absolutely essential, but in order to build it, we need your support! Please read on to learn more about the Council for Community Housing Organizations, what we do, and how you can help to support the future creation of affordable housing in San Francisco.


The member organizations of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO) are private non-profit housing development corporations that do more than build affordable housing. We advocate for many of the issues that make a strong community such as public safety, better public schools, creating youth and senior programs, improving our parks, keeping our libraries open, planting street trees, revitalizing commercial areas, and taking on many other issues that many neighborhoods have in common. Most of our organizations initially formed to address some of these familiar neighborhood issues.


Permanently affordable housing creates opportunities for San Franciscans who are living in overcrowded conditions, are at risk of losing their housing, and for San Franciscans who have already been displaced by the housing market and might be living between the shelters and the streets. Permanently affordable housing is a cost-effective strategy for strengthening our neighborhoods, and for enabling people to make choices for themselves rather than being subject to the volatile housing market.

Addressing the needs of a community certainly includes affordable housing, but building affordable housing does not complete a community.

So we continue to work on issues other than housing development. And, when we complete our developments, we ensure the highest level of professional property management because we are investing for the long-term benefit of our residents and the surrounding neighborhood. Where necessary, we also arrange for supportive services to ensure that the residents of our buildings have the greatest opportunities to achieve long-term stability and success. These services range from employment training, after school programs and senior health to emotional support and financial planning to information about and referral to specialized services available through other private and City agencies.

Non-profits do not develop housing to maximize profits. Non-profits develop housing to build and strengthen community.


An investment of local subsidies in affordable housing has a leveraging effect which benefits our local economy including many who work in the construction trades and the service professions related to real estate, design and construction.

Leveraging is the magnification of one’s investment.

Non-profit, community based development typically leverages up to three outside dollars for every one local dollar spent. So, if the City of San Francisco invests $250 million in the construction of non-profit affordable housing, this investment will attract an additional $750 million from outside sources. By investing $250 million, therefore, nearly $1 billion will run through the local economy supporting jobs for construction workers, architects, engineers, suppliers and other vendors.

Because non-profit developers advocate for and participate in the City’s local hiring programs, most of this money supports local business and workers.

These developments also create permanent jobs such as those for janitors, building maintenance, resident managers, desk clerks, supportive services providers, and child care staff. Some of our buildings are located on sites that allow for commercial uses on the ground floor. At these properties, we provide spaces for supportive services, child care, small, locally operated businesses, and when possible, “incubator” spaces where people in the community can start their own business with reduced overhead expense.

The direct benefit to residents of affordable housing in turn has a larger positive effect on local businesses. Instead of paying 60% — 70% of their income on market rate housing, individuals and families pay closer to 30% — 40% of their income for affordable housing. This creates stability, and enables people to make more choices about how to spend their money. Local businesses that provide goods and services benefit from this decreased burden, because people simply have more money to spend on things other than rent or mortgage.


As part of our work to build strong communities and to develop and preserve affordable housing for all residents of our city, we work closely with city agencies, neighborhood groups, merchants associations, and individuals to plan for the future of our neighborhoods. We are involved in long-range land-use, transit, and infrastructure planning to address comprehensively the issues that will allow the city to grow in a sustainable way, while seeking to attain a quality of life that all our City’s residents deserve.


Many people have asked if we can solve the affordable housing crisis by just building more housing. By simple laws of economics, increased supply should cause a drop in prices thereby making housing more affordable. Unfortunately, the situation is much more complex because of the fact that there is no limit to the demand, and supply is limited by geography.

According to the Department of City Planning figures as of February, 2003 only 11% of San Francisco’s households can afford to buy the median priced home in the City [Draft Housing Element (DHE), pg 41] and only 17% of us can afford to rent the average two bedroom apartment [DHE, pg.43].

Some officials and business leaders have attempted to address this imbalance by assisting for-profit developers to build new housing, trusting market forces to lower prices by increasing the supply of housing. Yet simply building more market rate housing has not proven to be effective in creating housing people can afford. A commonly known fact is that Manhattan in New York City has the highest residential density in the country, and it has for many years had the highest housing costs. According to the City Planning Department between 1989 and 1995 San Francisco saw nearly 10,000 new market rate units built, exceeding by nearly 10% the goal set for such units by the City [DHE, page 100], yet during that period, housing prices continued to rise.

Placing emphasis simply on new construction of market rate units is ineffective because San Francisco’s population often increases at a faster rate than does housing production and our City has an extremely limited “supply” of land available for housing development. During the 1990’s, over 1,000 new units per year were added, but Census figures indicate that while our City’s population grew by 7.3% between 1990 and 2000 (from 723,959 to 776,733), our housing stock grew by only 5.5% (from 328,471 units to 346,537).

The main reason for this disparity is the limited supply of land available for housing development in San Francisco. While most San Franciscans know that the City is only roughly 49 square miles, what most don’t realize is that nearly three quarters of that land is covered by streets and sidewalks, parks, beaches and open spaces and land zoned for businesses, schools, hospitals and museums leaving only about
13 square miles available for housing development [pg. 0.3, San Francisco Neighborhood Profiles, 1997 Department of City Planning, 1997]. So the real “shortage” in San Francisco that affects housing costs is the shortage of land.

Since our population will continue to grow faster than the housing supply, and the potential for increasing the supply of housing is limited, there will continue to be a disparity between median housing costs and median incomes. The pressure on San Franciscans as a result of this disparity has and will continue to affect all of us including seniors with very low incomes, people who have lost their homes, and even moderateincome families. Therefore, San Francisco needs more affordable housing units to counteract the for-profit market that has no economic incentive or ability to create truly permanent affordable housing.


Creating Affordable Housing is impossible without local subsidies. We need your participation today to design a ballot measure that will work to finance more affordable housing in San Francisco. The City’s current funding deficiency means that a measure will have to be on the ballot in the very near future. Please contact the Council of Community Housing Organizations at 863-6566 to see how you can get involved.

Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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