City Approves 145 New Units for the Unhoused

The Board of Supervisors signed off on resolution to designate 145 micro studios as ‘permanent supportive housing’ units.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved an agreement to lease a new building with 145 units earmarked for housing individuals experiencing homelessness.

The proposal, approved on Tuesday, came in the form of a resolution from Mayor London Breed to lease the property — currently under construction at 833 Bryant Street.

The building’s “micro studios” are part of the city’s ongoing effort to open more than 1,000 new “permanent supportive housing” (PSH) units by the end of 2024, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. 

Individuals experiencing homelessness will be referred for housing in these units by the city’s Coordinated Entry System. Sarah Owens, the mayor’s deputy press director, explained that individuals who live in PSH units generally allocate between 30-50 percent of their income toward rent, with the remaining amount covered by multiple subsidy programs that support PSH in San Francisco.

Mayor London Breed, who grew up in public housing in San Francisco, was elected on a promise to provide 1,000 more beds by the end of 2020. A recent investigation into the city’s homelessness situation done by the New Yorker found that “there are still about four thousand more people than beds on any given night.”

The city currently houses over 10,800 people in PSH units.

“These new homes will not only provide permanent housing for formerly homeless people, they will also open up more spaces in our shelter system for people who are currently living on the streets,” Breed said in the press release from her office.

It will be at least another year until the units are made available. The site previously existed as a parking lot, and the building currently being constructed at 833 Bryant Street has a projected completion date of fall 2021. 

The site itself was acquired using $35 million from a larger philanthropic donation from Tipping Point Community, a non-profit foundation focused on fighting poverty in the Bay Area. No city funds are being used in the building’s construction.

Mercy Housing California, acting as the project developer, is partnering with Citibank and the State of California to secure low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds to finish construction, according to the press release from the mayor’s office. This will free up a portion of the original $35 million donation from Tipping Point. Those funds will then be invested into additional supportive housing projects.

Mercy Housing is also working in partnership with Episcopal Community Services to construct 258 homes for formerly homeless individuals on 7th and Mission streets by 2021.

The project at 833 Bryant Street is not without complaints. An organization named “Friends of Bryant Street” sent a letter critical of the project to Tipping Point Community, Mercy Housing, and District Supervisor Matt Haney on June 27, 2019. 

In the letter, the group requested that the building’s bottom three floors be reserved for commercial space and asked for fewer than 145 units of housing. They also asked for a higher wall between the building and the neighborhood, a zero tolerance policy for residents which would require them to stay off drugs and alcohol and in recovery programs, and a rooftop patio that would be made accessible to both residents and members of the public. 

The press release from the mayor’s office made no mention of these requests.

With the approval of the mayor’s resolution, the city has entered into a long-term lease on 833 Bryant. At the end of the lease, the city will have the option to purchase the property for $1 with the assurance that the building will be permanently affordable, according to the press release from the mayor’s office.

Hannah Holzer is an intern covering news and culture.

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