Nearly 7,000 applications (6,849) were received for the 108 Below Market Rate (“BMR”) rental units in the new 537-unit development at 500 Folsom Street, on Transbay Block 9, which was completed at the end of 2019. And while waylaid by the pandemic, BRIDGE Housing was able to have 100 percent of the BMR units leased up and occupied by the end of last August.

A mix of 34 studios, 61 one-bedrooms and 13 twos, including one (1) managers unit, the 108 units are now home to 234 individuals, including 65 children and 30 seniors, with 57 of the parking spaces in the building’s new six-level garage having been allocated to the BMR units by way of a lottery.

While priced at 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), with monthly rents ranging from $1,026 to $1,302, the average income of the applicants was only 35 percent of AMI.

And while 102 of the households originated in San Francisco, as mapped below, six (6) of the new occupants, who work in the San Francisco, came from Daly City, Oakland, Pacifica, Sacramento, San Leandro, and San Pablo and no longer have to commute into the city for work.

43 thoughts on “The Numbers Behind the Lease Up of New Below Market Units”
  1. Congrats to the lucky applicants , you deserve it. We need to focus on the other 7000 applicants . Time for the city to step it up and stop catering to developers. Time for 51% of all units to be affordable.

    I am fine with ADUs but either the main house or new ADU have to be for affordable housing.

    We also need higher impact fees because of infrastructure is so old. Looks like another drought year. You want more water and sewer service, pay for it with impact fees.

    1. The 7000 applicants was because that is a super hot building and the lotto was managed by a housing conglomerate. So sanctimony and bespoke self congratulation aside, how about some data:

      There are 450,000 units total of housing in SF.
      25,000 are SRO’s.
      238,000 are rentals.
      172,000 of those are rent controlled
      35,000 units of subsidized affordable housing, meaning half of the existing housing stock in SF is already massively affordable. Its helped create the squeeze driving the other half up.

      And SF is 2nd densest city after NYC in USA — denser even than Hong Kong.

      1. “And SF is 2nd densest city after NYC in USA — denser even than Hong Kong

        That’s not a fair comparison. Hong Kong is nine times larger than SF. Most of its landmass is mountainous wilderness. You could fit several San Franciscos into HK’s unoccupied wildernesses. HK travel brochures focus on the very dense parts around Central and Kowloon and those areas are much denser than SF.

        1. allcaps law: All statistics about the City and County of San Francisco are stupid, because the City and County of San Francisco doesn’t reasonably compare to everything else. This is a great example. Another one is when people get statistics that say “The rental market San Francisco is more expensive than New York City.” Again, that includes far Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island, none of which compare reasonably to the 7×7.

          1. Right. The closest reasonable comparison would be the borough of Manhattan and even that is a reach.

        1. To quote further: “The San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., area is the second most densely populated at 6,266 people per square mile, followed by San Jose, Calif. (5,820 people per square mile) …Of the 10 most densely populated urbanized areas, nine are in the West, with seven of those in California.”

          Puts a little perspective on the demands of the yakeratti here whose lips are permanently frozen into the words “density! density!!”

      2. *denser even than Hong Kong.*

        Literally hilarious. Yes, it is denser than Hong Kong on the aggregate. Because much of what is within the HK limits is literally forest. Just Google Aerial view Hong Kong. For comparison purposes, it’s like if Golden Gate National Recreation, Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Angel Island, etc were all in the SF city limits. Wouldn’t you expect that to throw off the density just a *tiny* little bit?

        But when you are in the *occupied* areas of Hong Kong, the density is breathtaking. Whether that is good breathtaking or bad breathtaking is very much in the eye of the beholder. It made NYC feel like a little village to me. My wife and I had never been anywhere that dense. Just spend a few minutes on Google Street view on Nathan Road in Kowloon, or anything on the north side of Hong Kong Island, and tell me if you honestly believe there is any neighborhood of SF that is even 1/4 as dense as those. Paris street width, Manhattan building height, as far as the eye can see.

      3. “And SF is 2nd densest city after NYC in USA — denser even than Hong Kong.”

        As mentioned in other replies, this statement is misleading for a variety of reasons. If you want a more fair comparison, Hong Kong Island and Kowloon together have a similar area to SF (56 square miles, vs 46.91 square miles SF) and the combined population is over 3 million, vs around 900k in SF.

        In New Territories, many county parks and nature reserves exist, as well as >200 islands that are low density in population, and also contain HKG airport. In comparison, SFO airport is technically not part of SF’s land area.

      1. Yes, it’s listed at the time of application for folks to see if they qualify. You can still google it and you’ll find it there!

    2. This is exactly the thinking that will end all further development in SF. Good luck. The rich get even richer…

    3. If we need 7000 more houses it kinda sounds like we need more “catering to developers”, not less. Who do you think builds houses?

      1. You seem to have missed the context for the above post. Sure, developers build dwellings, but the 7,000 applications for this building came in because the price was affordable.

        If planning policy in S.F. pivoted even more to cater to the pecuniary interests of developers, those developers would build more market rate housing that is outside of the price range of existing resident households and the overwhelming majority of the people who completed an application for units in this building.

        1. But these apartments aren’t affordable due to their nature, they are subsidized. That’s not the same thing. A developer isn’t really able to influence the market-clearing price of housing. They can’t “build affordable housing” because that simply isn’t possible in a market economy. The only mechanism by which developers influence the price is by adding supply, and the city absolutely should bend over backwards to accommodate and encourage construction.

        2. since 20% BMR required of market rate, we will get way more BMR by catering to developers than any social housing plan

          1. I understand that you feel class affinity for developers, but I don’t and I disagree.

            In the real world of S.F. real estate, the 20% BMR requirements are “met” by developers in many instances by paying an in-lieu fee, and the housing units get built decades later if at all. Many developments are flipped after entitlement and the so-called developer doesn’t actually proceed to build.

            The benefit of prioritizing social housing is that the housing gets developed and delivered. So-called developers who want to be catered to are focused on making money.

    4. The problem with this is that it’s entirely focused on new housing, and not existing housing. The policy which bans adding an ADU to a house unless it’s below market rate, but is perfectly fine with remodeling the same house, is one that results in large, expensive and exclusive houses. A century ago, houses and even mansions were sometimes subdivided, some of which resulted in the “affordable” rent-controlled apartments the city is so keen to protect. But that was done for market reasons, and today the city bans and restricts that practice to the point that it’s uneconomical — but is fine with people doing major remodels that double or triple the cost of existing housing, without adding any.

      Further, people are very quick to criticize developers for making a profit — 10, 20, 30%! — but have nothing to say about the person who buys a house, does very little, and sells it ten years later for twice the price. Instead, the “affordable housing” movement focuses exclusively on the actors who actually add necessary new housing, and aim to restrict and tax them as much as possible, as if this will do anything about the skyrocketing costs of existing homes.

      But public policy needs public support, and that’s why we are where we are: homeowners and investors are the majority in this country, and even in SF where renters are the majority, homeowners have more money and more influence, and are untouchable. And so the “affordable housing” policy has to ensure that their interests aren’t damaged– i.e. that housing prices keep going up, up, up. And what we see is the result of that policy. You could make all new construction 100% affordable if you wanted, and housing prices would still keep going up, because the 99% of people who don’t win the housing lottery still need a place to live, and they’ll have to compete for the limited supply of existing market rate housing.

    5. Not everybody can win. Even if there were 250 units of affordable, the demand of applicants is too high. Nearly 7,000 for 108 apts. So as long as the demand remains high, there will only always be a need

  2. The AMI for San Francisco for a single-person house is $89,650. 35% of that is $31,377.50, which almost exactly works out to 52 40-hour weeks at $15/hour, the minimum wage. These [are the people] who make your food, deliver your groceries, and do your laundry. They work full-time at jobs that pay the literal minimum wage.

    If you don’t like the BMR program, argue against the program. But don’t impugn the people who benefit from the program itself.

    1. 100% agree. What we need is more mixed-income publicly owned housing that will help pay for itself and subsidize the ultra affordable units.

    2. These are also the people who are the frontline workers that we pretend to care so much about (until it comes to actually paying them what they deserve)

      1. ‘what they deserve’ is presumably set by the market. If the worker believes he deserves more then he/she has option to work somewhere else, no?

        1. Thank you for your post, Ivoryhouse.

          To everyone else: Take note: This is what a market fundamentalist sounds like.

  3. I don’t have an issue with providing BMR units given the realities of wide ranging incomes. However, I don’t believe BMR units in such a central SF location should also come with parking spots. Any estimate on the final cost per parking spot? I wonder how much renting the parking spots out would have helped defray the subsidy costs of the BMR units…

    1. A better solution is to unbundle parking from residence and sell/rent parking at a market rate. That way both BMR and market rate owners have a shot at obtaining a parking spot. But parking should not be subsidized. A home is necessary, a car is not, especially in this central location.

      1. A lot of lower income workers have cars; they a requirement for gig work and delivery jobs. Usually there is little work of this type that can be completed using Muni.

        With dedicated parking, tenants in gig work would be able to take advantage of state grant programs (BAAQMD Clean cars for all) and private rebates (Uber/Chevy Bolt rebate) that help replace gasoline cars with electric.

        In absence of dedicated parking; these car purchases will be gasoline.

    2. Yeah, I have never heard of BMR housing with parking…seems like a huge waste and negative incentive to drive.

    3. Well that’s too bad that you have an issue with the parking. There is no parking in the area, not even in front of the building as there are bike lanes all over. So bikers please stop complaining!

    1. Ya think?! It’s a good point. I’d guess that these non-residents are city employees? Can’t imagine the lottery is open to anyone in the region – and Sacramento isn’t even in the region.

      1. While ranked below those who have been displaced, live in the neighborhood, or have a Certificate of Preference (COP), anyone that either lives or works in San Francisco can qualify to participate in the general lottery for BMR units in the city.

      2. Yes it is a good point. No, you don’t have to be a city employee, anybody who works in San Francisco and lives in another city can have the SF Live/Work preference thanks to the City!

    2. Pretty useful for it to go to SF workers. Cuts a down on traffic, pollution, and sprawl. Imagine if everyone was able to live within 10 miles of where they work. If you’re an SF resident then you’re already making it in SF, this helps the people who should live in SF but can’t.

      1. Not necessarily. You have to show proof that you indeed live in the city to have the SF Live/Work preference that you live in here.

    3. I know, however the city has an SF Live/Work Preference and that’s why if someone works in San Francisco, but lives in Sacramento they get into that pool of preference for working here.

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