Through ten years of negotiations, redesigns and financing issues, this project in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco finally broke ground. Now, it stands to be monumental in offering an affordable solution to families in the area.

Like a bull’s-eye, San Francisco’s poorest neighborhood is surrounded by some of its wealthiest. In the Tenderloin, as it’s known, median household income is $22,000. Many residents are among San Francisco’s youngest; at least 3,000 children live in the Tenderloin. In large part, their families moved there to secure more affordable housing: Some 80 percent of 15,800 total apartments are either rent-controlled or locked-in at below-market rates, according to the San Francisco Business Times. But that housing supply doesn’t quite meet residents’ needs.

Don Falk, CEO of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), estimates that 95 percent of Tenderloin homes are studios or single-room occupancies (SROs), a legacy of earlier times when the neighborhood served a different population. “There is a lot of overcrowding,” Falk says.

Nonprofits like TNDC and Mercy Housing started buying up buildings in the Tenderloin in the 1980s, and preserving their affordability. The city of San Francisco, too, worked with investors using Low Income Housing Tax Credits to acquire buildings in the Tenderloin and maintain them as affordable housing.

And though it’s taken a decade of hard work, TNDC finally broke ground in August on the Eddy & Taylor Family Apartments, an 8-story, 113-unit building, on one of the last undeveloped parcels in the Tenderloin. The former parking lot is in a highly desirable location, two blocks from a regional commuter train stop. One hundred percent of the units will be locked in at below-market rents. Sixty percent of the units will be two- or three-bedroom units. Thirty percent of the units will be reserved for families coming out of the shelter system. Five units will be reserved for people with developmental disabilities.

The project could have been a lot bigger; the building was originally slated to be 157 units, 100 percent affordable, and 14 stories instead of just eight. But between the recession and some abrupt policy decisions by the state, TNDC had to scale back to move ahead. A project like this, with larger units suitable for families with children, is a heavier lift because of the way affordable housing finance works.

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