Mayor London Breed Announces Plan to Reform City’s Small Sites Housing Acquisition Program
Improvements made in partnership with non-profits that help administer the program will ensure long-term success of important housing preservation and anti-displacement program
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Ahsha Safaí today announced the next steps to strengthen and reform San Francisco’s Small Sites Program, which preserves rent-controlled buildings and prevents tenant displacement. First launched in 2014, the City has helped acquire 47 buildings (368 units of affordable housing) through the Small Sites Program.
The Small Sites Program is run by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), which works to acquire and preserve at-risk rental housing with three to 25 units. The program was created to establish long-term affordable housing in smaller properties throughout San Francisco that are particularly vulnerable to market pressure that results in property sales, increased evictions, and rising tenant rents. In the face of the increasing pressure, the Small Sites Program helps San Franciscans avoid displacement or eviction by providing loans to non-profit organizations to successfully remove these sites from the market and restrict them as permanently affordable housing.
While the program has been an important tool, challenges have impacted implementation and acquisition. Mayor Breed sat down with non-profit partners who work with the City on administering the program, and agreed to a plan to reform over the coming months to ensure the long-term viability of the Small Sites Program. Those commitments include:
- Undergoing a study on how to make the program more efficient and the model more applicable. This study will be conducted by the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), which partners with the City on housing preservation and acquisition efforts. HAF’s recommendations are due in January.
- Considering reform recommendations from the City’s housing partners.
- Implementing programmatic reforms by the end of March 2022.
- Supporting capacity in the City’s non-profit partners to make small sites deals and ensure that the buildings are financially sustainable.
- Modernizing and reforming programming rules to ensure broader applicability geographically, including in neighborhoods currently left out of the program because of income limitations.
- Ensuring that vacant units are immediately filled.
“Our Small Sites program is an important part of our overall strategy to make housing affordable to all San Franciscans,” said Mayor Breed. “Preserving rent-controlled housing helps keep people in their homes, protects against displacement and evictions, and creates more stability in our neighborhoods as we make crucial decisions to build more housing in all neighborhoods. We are committed to working with our non-profit partners to reform and strengthen this program so we can make impactful investments in our upcoming budget and support the long-term viability of the Small Sites program.”
The City currently has $10 million in funding in the current Fiscal Year for the Small Sites Program, and MOHCD will allocate up to $10 million of additional funds, which will allow the City to be flexible if good acquisitions arise before the end of June 2022. Once the reforms are implemented, the City will make program-specific investments in the upcoming budget process, which kicks off in two weeks when the Mayor issues Budget Instructions.
“San Francisco’s vitality is dependent on keeping our current residents stably housed. The Small Sites Acquisition Program has so much untapped potential to save our diminishing rent-controlled housing stock and to keep our communities intact. We need to be bold and shift the way we have been doing things to meet this moment. Our City’s economic recovery is dependent on investing in the residents and businesses that are struggling to stay here,” stated Supervisor Myrna Melgar.
“The Small Sites program preserves existing affordable units for working families here in San Francisco through acquisition,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “Together with Mayor Breed and Supervisor Melgar’s leadership – we have renewed our support for this vital program and San Francisco’s middle income families. We are committed to working with our local non-profit partners and I’m proud to help lead this process to increase affordable housing options for San Francisco’s working families.”
“We thank the Mayor for renewing her commitment to the City’s housing acquisition and affordable preservation program,” said Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Center. “While this has been a critical tool in preventing displacement of our most vulnerable residents, it has not always worked as planned. Not only do we have to expand accessibility to a broader range of San Franciscans, especially our lowest income, we have to make the program sustainable for the organizations that are doing the work of acquiring, rehabbing, and operating the housing.”
“MEDA is firmly committed to the proven, targeted approach of the City’s Small Sites Program to fight displacement. Since 2014, our nonprofit has made 33 critical acquisitions, keeping in their longtime homes hundreds of families and dozens of commercial businesses,” said MEDA CEO Luis Granados. “Our Community Real Estate team has been maintaining and growing the program throughout the pandemic, building our own capacity and that of our nonprofit peers so that we are all best positioned to continue to purchase Small Sites apartment buildings. In partnership with the City, we look forward to acquiring additional critical buildings as we further strengthen the program to ensure all properties are financially stable and that every unit becomes home to those most in need of affordable housing.”
“We deeply appreciate Mayor Breed’s leadership on this issue and commitment of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to work on program refinements,” said Beth Stokes, Executive Director, Episcopal Community Services.