Housing problem?

Call the Public Housing/ Section 8 Renters Rights Hotline: 415-354-6353

Other Low-Income Housing Programs:

"BMR"/Tax Credit Housing

There are different types of "below-market," affordable housing programs with projects developed and run by the Mayor's Office of Housing and the SF Redevelopment Agency. HUD and the Housing Authority are not directly involved in these projects.

Rents are usually set at a ceiling that is below average market rents, but they are not set according to income. The most common of these programs is the low income housing tax credit program which is administered by the State Treasurer. Click here for the regulations for this program.

These are multifamily buildings where HUD has given the owner a subsidy that allows them to charge the tenants no more than 30% of their income for rent. The Housing Authority is not involved in these buildings. 

Examples of these buildings include La Salle Apartments, Antonia Manor, Prince Hall Apartments, All Hallows and Diamond View apartments.  HUD has a Multifamily Handbook (4350.3) which applies to these properties. 

  • This is a resource site for tenants, advocates and service providers in San Francisco who seek information and tools related to federally-subsidized, low-income housing programs.
  • This means housing that is legislated by the US Congress and in some way funded and administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Here you will find information about tenant's rights, political advocacy, policy issues, news articles and links to other useful sites.* 
Low-Income Housing

People will often use the terms "HUD housing," "low-income housing" or "public housing" to refer to a wide range of government housing programs that are actually quite different from one another in areas such as funding, management, tenant's rights and administration and oversight.

What all of these HUD low-income housing programs (public housing, section 8, HUD-subsidized) have in common are:
  • Tenants rents are set at a percentage of their income (between 30-40%).
  • Programs serve "very and extremely-low income" households (average incomes are between $13,000-$18,000, yr.in SF ) and have "income eligibility guidelines" (you have to be low-income) that must be met in order to access units.
  • They are all governed by HUD regulations and are funded by the US Congress.  Each of these HUD housing programs are covered by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 24, Part 5. 
  • All programs must meet HUD's "Housing Quality Standards (HQS), which ensures that units are habitable. 
  • All of these programs are exempt from the San Francisco rent ordinance. The rent control laws do not apply. Each program has its own version of "just cause" eviction protections, however.
It is important to know the rules that apply for each specific program, since there are some important differences. Below is a very basic description of each of the key programs. To find out more about each one, click on the link provided. 

Public Housing
Public housing (commonly referred to as "the projects") is housing owned and operated directly by the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA), which is an independent, local agency (not the City), created by the State and regulated and funded by HUD. There are approximately 6,000 of these units (43 developments) in San Francisco.  4,000 of these are family units (such as Hunters View, Alice Griffith, Potrero, etc), and 2,000 are senior/disabled buildings (like Rosa Parks, Mission Dolores, 660 Ellis, etc). 

Public housing in SF is grouped together into "developments" or "projects."  These developments were mostly built in the '50s and are managed by the Housing Authority, with the exception of the "HOPE VI" sites which have been redeveloped in the last decade and are commonly run by outside management agents such as John Stewart Company or McCormack-Baron.  They are still owned by the SFHA. These HOPE VI sites are Valencia Gardens, Bernal Dwellings, Hayes Valley, and North Beach.

Federal rules that apply to all of the SFHA owned public housing units (found in the CFR) are outlined in the HUD Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook and the Housing Authority's local policies are stated in the Admissions and Continuing Occupancy Policies (ACOP)

All public housing residents pay only 30% of their income for rent. 

Section 8 Vouchers
(click for more info)
The Section 8 program is now officially known as the "Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)" program.  This program began in the '70s in order to break up the pockets of poverty created by the original public housing program and to involve private landlords in providing low-income housing. 

In this program, which is administered by the Housing Authority and funded by HUD, a private landlord owns and manages the units and part of the rent is paid for by the Housing Authority, so that tenants pay only an amount that they can afford (between 30-40% of their income).

Two main types of Section 8:

Tenant-based Section 8
(officially known as "Housing Choice Vouchers"):
Under the Section 8 voucher program,  a tenant is given a voucher by the Housing Authority that they can use to rent from any landlord who will accept it.The voucher enables them to pay only an affordable percent of their income, while the Housing Authority makes up the rest by sending money directly to the landlord each month. 

Section 8 tenants can be found in any part of the city. Rules specific to the tenant-based voucher program can be found in the HUD HCV Guidebook and the SFHA's Section 8 HCV Administrative Plan

Project-based Section 8:

With this type of voucher, the subsidy is attached to the building itself and is not portable.  The owner is given a certain number of vouchers per year so that they can provide units at 30% of income to eligible tenants. When a tenant moves into the unit, they are charged rent according to their income. When they move from the unit, their rent is no longer subsidized but, the unit remains affordable for the next tenant who moves in. 

Many non-profit developers use this type of Section 8 to provide affordable housing.  Examples in SF where project-based vouchers are used include the Apollo Hotel, the Dalt, Fillmore Marketplace, Folsom/Dore apartments, etc.  The SFHA's Section 8 Project-Based Administrative plan applies to these units.

Two types of "special" Section 8 vouchers:

1. HOPWA (for people with HIV/AIDS), operated by the SF Redevelopment Agency.

2. Shelter plus Care (for homeless with disabilities/ substance abuse problems), operated in conjunction with the SF Department of Human Services (See CFR 24 Part 574 for program rules). For local  program information click here. Aside from the additional rules linked to above, Section 8 tenant's rights regulations apply.

SRO Hotels: There are some unique rules that apply to Section 8 SRO hotels (CFR 24 982.602-605). 

*Note: Not all "affordable" housing is federally funded through HUD, so certain programs (especially city or state funded programs like "care not cash") are not addressed on this site. Also, there are some smaller, specialized HUD programs that we do not have information on here. To find out about those programs go directly to the HUD website at www.hud.gov.