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About HOPE SF: Background and History

HOPE SF seeks to revitalize four of San Francisco’s most distressed public housing sites, transforming them into vibrant, thriving communities. The HOPE SF initiative was born out of a need to address the ongoing deterioration of San Francisco’s public housing in the light of diminishing federal assistance. The City has committed $95 million dollars to HOPE SF, the largest local commitment to public housing in history. San Francisco’s commitment marks an unprecedented opportunity for public housing residents to improve their lives and transform their communities.

The Problem
In 2005, an independent assessment reported disturbing news: San Francisco Housing Authority needed to invest at least $267 million to repair and renovate its housing sites. To put that number in perspective, the federal government allocates only $16 million to San Francisco annually for those needs.

San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) buildings were failing because of years of reduced investment by the federal government. Funding shortfalls had resulted in significant problems with basic building systems such as plumbing, roofs, and heat. Old, deteriorating buildings were putting thousands of families, seniors, and children at risk.

Like housing authorities across the country, the SFHA had previously relied on the federal HOPE VI program to fund the rebuilding of five of its public housing sites. By 2006, however, the federal budget for HOPE VI had dwindled considerably. The Housing Authority, San Francisco elected officials, and community leaders turned to problem solving. They concluded that unless the city developed its own solutions to the public housing crisis, living conditions faced by residents would continue to worsen.

The Solution
HOPE SF was born out of the realization that families in crisis were living in the most distressed housing in the city.

In 2006, the SFHA identified eight highly distressed public housing sites that could be redeveloped as mixed-income neighborhoods. These developments account for more than 50% of the agency’s physical repair needs. At the same time, the City’s Human Services Agency had determined that 60% of the families in crisis in San Francisco lived within walking distance of only seven street corners in the city. Five of these seven corners coincided with the eight distressed public housing sites identified by the SFHA.

A citizen task force was convened by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to create a new model for rebuilding and sustaining public housing. HOPE SF aims to move public housing away from the failed model of large, isolated islands of poverty and deteriorating housing and toward a new vision of high-quality mixed-income housing developments. HOPE SF’s new model for revitalizing public housing draws on learning from more than 15 years of national HOPE VI experience, as well as on research by the Urban Institute, the Brookings Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Harlem Children’s Zone. Additional examples of best practices in Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland have helped inform the HOPE SF model.

In response to the Task Force’s report, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors authorized $95 million in local bond funding to launch HOPE SF, a dollar amount with symbolic power. The $95 million promise showed unprecedented local commitment to public housing. This amount exceeded the annual HOPE VI funding that year for the entire nation.

The First Phase
The first phase of HOPE SF will rebuild more than 2,000 units in five public housing sites. Modern design principles will be used to transform more than 100 acres of dilapidated apartments into 3,000 additional homes, including both rental and for-sale units. The first HOPE SF site began construction in early 2010.

Learn More
The Basics
Neighborhood Improvements
Development Plan
Project Schedule