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Politics & Policy

SF plans to build more housing—at some point. Meanwhile, low-income seniors are struggling to pay their rents

San Francisco plans to build a towering number of new homes by 2031, though progress on that front is slow. Meanwhile, many of the city’s currently available homes—even its “affordable” ones—are out of reach for San Francisco’s vulnerable, low-income seniors.

The math is dire.

Most affordable units in San Francisco target their rents at between 30% and 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI), which means a one-bedroom apartment rents for between $799 and $1,333 a month. But the latest report from San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services shows over 75% of senior renters say their actual income levels are below 20% of the AMI. 

In other words, many seniors are spending 75% or more of their monthly, fixed income on rent each month, and struggling to pay for other necessities like food and bills.

“There is definitely a housing crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities in the city,” said Jessica Lehman, the executive director of San Francisco Senior & Disability Action, a local nonprofit.

In 2019, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program called Senior Operating Subsidies (SOS), which helps low-income seniors in certain housing units pay their rents. San Francisco Mayor London Breed agreed to provide $4 million to the SOS program in her latest budget proposal for the next two years.

Watch our video for a full look at the affordability crisis facing San Francisco’s low-income seniors.