THE CITY'S HOUSING CRISIS
The investment in affordable housing is critical in San Francisco, which is among the most rapidly gentrifying cities in the country. The West Bay counties of San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo added 24,500 jobs between November 2012 and November 2013, a 2.4 percent increase, according to the California Employment Development Department. The tech sector itself has created thousands in the last few years, a significant increase in a city of just over 800,000 residents.
The boom has boosted the city's overall economy, but it has also created problems for affordable housing. The influx of techies has put pressure on the city's limited housing, sending prices skyrocketing. Rent in San Francisco increased over 5 percent from a year ago, compared with a 3.2 percent increase nationwide, according to a new report released by Reis, a real-estate research firm.
HOPE SF is hoping to combat the dearth of affordable housing, though so far ground has been broken at only one of the sites: Hunters View. It began with 267 units across 22 acres, and only 148 families occupying them.
Phase one was recently completed, with 107 new units built, 80 of which are public-housing replacements, according to The John Stewart Company, a lead developer on the site. In addition to the 267 public housing replacements, up to 533 affordable and market-rate units will be built. The remaining sites are in development or planning stages. However, since residents are not displaced in the meantime, community-based programs are able to move ahead.
An outside evaluation company, Learning for Action, is helping to determine the types of programs that would be best suited for a given site. Potrero's high truancy rate inspired the walking school bus. Unemployment at Alice Griffith, another Hope SF site,led to a job and training program. Mini on-site clinics address health concerns, and gardens and parks are created to encourage healthy eating and exercise.
Pease-Greene says much of the initial skepticism and distrust from her neighbors has lifted since the programs started, and she believes that will be evident even more so once the housing is built.
HOPE SF AS A MODEL FOR OTHER CITIES
This community involvement is crucial to Hope SF's success, and offers a model for other cities to follow.
"In the past, public housing was particularly concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods — [residents] found housing but were not connected to jobs. There were not strong schools. There was nothing to help them connect to the overall economy," says Judith Bell, president of Policy Link, a national research and action organization dedicated to promoting social and economic equity.
"Hope SF and other [similar] efforts recognize the need to take a more innovative and comprehensive approach. Residents are engaged in envisioning and implementing and planning in a way that problems can be solved before they become a crisis," she added.