HOPE SF: Preserving Affordability in the World’s Highest Rent City

By Mary-Rain O’Meara

A recent article by KRON 4 in San Francisco referenced a study which placed the city on the top of the list for the world’s highest rents. Average rents in San Francisco are high at $3,500 per unit, but it isn’t the only Bay Area city on the high rents list. San Jose and Oakland ranked 4th and 5th for the world’s highest rents, with Berkeley not far behind.

These intense rental pressures escalate homelessness and increase the rate of minority and low-income displacement in the Bay Area. The solutions to address this affordability crisis are multi-faceted and require significant cross-sector collaboration. An example of this kind of partnership in action is the ambitious HOPE SF initiative, which aims to revitalize four of the city’s distressed public housing communities and create thousands of affordable housing units over the coming years.

HOPE SF is being led by the San Francisco Housing Authority in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. From the team’s presentation at the Summer 2018 NAHRO (National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials) conference in San Francisco, the initiative was described as the “nation’s first large-scale community development and public housing transformation effort aimed at creating equitable, inclusive, mixed-income neighborhoods without mass displacement of original low-income communities of color.”

The HOPE SF project began in 2007 and is focused on four public housing communities with a combined total of 2,500 original units of public housing. By 2030, 5,000 new units will be built on the revitalized sites by creating “thriving, mixed-income communities that provide residents healthy, safe homes and support they need to succeed.” (www.hopesf.org/about.php).

Through public-private partnerships, service and employment enhancements and strong commitments by the San Francisco Foundation and other supporters, the HOPE SF project is well on its way to achieving its objectives. For other Housing Authorities looking at redevelopment of aging public housing sites in high-rent areas, the success of HOPE SF provides the framework for a resident-centered, anti-displacement model to replicate, even if on a smaller scale.





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