Everyone knows how expensive housing is in the Bay Area. The idea of owning your own home, especially in the city of San Francisco, can be daunting. According to the California Association of Realtors latest statistics, the median single-family home price in San Francisco has risen to $964,670, up a whopping 28.6% year over year, which translates to a dismal 16% on the affordability index.
Despite these numbers, there is some hope, as discovered when we talked to Shannon Way of HomeownershipSF, a nonprofit holding a free 2014 Housing Expo on Saturday, June 14th.
Shannon Way, Program Manager
275 Fifth St., Suite 314, San Francisco CA
MEDA: Tell us about the HomeownershipSF model?
SW: HomeownershipSF acts as a connection point for housing agencies to coordinate services and more effectively address our city’s housing issues. We have a consortium of five agencies right now: Asian, Inc.; the SF LGBT Community Center; the San Francisco Housing Corporation; Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco; and, of course, MEDA, which serves the Mission District. HomeownershipSF is also big on making sure people know all of the financial issues that surround buying a home. How do you calculate a mortgage payment? What about property tax? And people need to consider having an emergency fund in case their water heater breaks—something they didn’t need to think about when renting.
MEDA: How did you find yourself at HomeownershipSF?
SW: I was a realtor for 10 years, starting in 2001. Back then, I was mostly helping family and friends buy homes. By 2006, the market had gone crazy— my family and friends could not afford the prices. The recession moved money around—mainly away from lower-income people. I went to work in nonprofits to help create a path for everyone to be able to buy a home. When I learned of HomeownershipSF and their mission, I felt like it was a perfect fit.
MEDA: Tell us about your June 14th event at St. Mary’s Cathedral. What’s on the agenda?
SW: Our free event will start with a resource fair, from 11am-3pm. There will be 50 exhibitors, plus 10 homebuyer workshops and five foreclosure workshops. One major player will be Keep Your Home California, which will focus on information about helping unemployed homeowners stay in their residence until they land a new job. MEDA’s Homeownership Coach, Juan Diego Castro, will be teaching two classes, one in Spanish and one in English. Then, from 2:30pm-5pm, we will be having bus tours to show some of San Francisco’s more affordable homes for sale.
MEDA: How do these bus tours work?
SW: We had one bus tour last year and had a very long waiting list, so we have increased the number to three tours this year. Each bus fits 30 persons, with a realtor, loan officer and housing counselor on each vehicle. Two buses will take people to view market-rate properties and one bus will head to five below-market rate (BMR) properties. We will tour these units and give examples of how city programs can help make them more affordable.
MEDA: Can you explain more about BMR purchases?
SW: This is a prime time for people to get their finances in order, attending Financial Capability workshops, for example, to get your credit score in good shape. There is so much new development underway in San Francisco right now, which also means there will be large numbers of new BMR’s coming on the market. BMR’s are available for households making 70% to 120% of the area’s median income. Also, the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) on March 1st doubled the Downpayment Assistance Loan Program (DALP) to $200,000. Mayor Lee has proposed 30,000 housing units to be built in the next six years, with a goal of having 10,000 of these units be permanently affordable. The mayor’s office has also convened a group of developers and nonprofit organizations to come up with ways to create even more affordable units. I know that MEDA is involved in many of these meetings, and so is HomeownershipSF.
MEDA: Is pre-registration required for your June 14th event?
SW: Pre-registration is strongly encouraged for the 2014 Housing Expo. Bus tours do require pre-registration, which will be offered first to people who have signed up for the expo at the following links, with invites in English and Spanish.
MEDA: Can you sum up why people should have some hope that they can get into the housing market?
SW: I think the city is starting to address housing issues to help maintain its diverse culture. For example, the fact I mentioned before that recently San Francisco increased downpayment funding through the DALP, now offering up to $200,000 in assistance. There are projects in the pipeline, such as 192 BMR units coming in 2015 at 14th and Mission streets. This is why we are holding our event. Now is the time to get ready, to learn your options and to get information about opportunities on the horizon. The HomeownershipSF 2014 Housing Expo will have resources for renters, homebuyers and current homeowners. All are welcome at our Housing Expo on June 14th.