Showcasing the Need for Affordable and Stable Housing: One Story

MEDA’s Strategic Plan 2017-2020 re-envisions its work via five measurable results to be achieved for the San Francisco Mission District community by 2020.


Affordable and stable housing is fundamental to health, employment, educational achievement and economic security. MEDA seeks to ensure that families are housed in permanently affordable housing, and are not spending more than one-third of their household income on rent. We want to help families own affordable homes in San Francisco, stay in their rent-controlled or affordable units, and access newly created affordable opportunities in the Mission District and beyond.

Following is a story showcasing the need.

(*Note: Name changed to protect client privacy.)

Valentina* emigrated from El Salvador four decades ago, searching for a better life. She landed a job near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, receiving free rent in exchange for taking care of the residents of a posh apartment building on Francisco Street. She cleaned the units, washed clothes and handled many other general needs. To earn additional income, Valentina had a side job as a seamstress.

While she worked hard each day, Valentina felt settled because she had affordable and stable housing. Describing her apartment in the Francisco Street building, Valentina says, “It was a very nice one-bedroom. There was a beautiful view. I could see Alcatraz.”

Flash forward to today and her home feels like the prison.

The retired 80-year-old dabs her tears as she describes the tiny room off the kitchen she rents at 13th and Duboce — a room that provides zero privacy because the other three residents must have access to the backyard. To keep her tiny area clear for the others, Valentina has a folding bed, which hurts the octogenarian’s back.

To compound a bad situation, the fellow renter of another small room off the kitchen is a heavy drinker, who when inebriated uses profane language and even makes unwanted sexual advances, despite his being thirty years younger than Valentina.

There is no living room in the apartment, as another renter has turned that into a fourth bedroom space, so Valentina feels confined to her 100-square-foot space.

While the rent is low by San Francisco’s pricey standards, the $400 per month Valentina pays — plus $50 she pays toward household supplies — is half of the $850 in Social Security that gets deposited into her bank account each month. This is a severe rent burden, which Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines as paying more than 50 percent of one’s income on rent.

So despite a hip issue that makes it difficult to get around, Valentina makes her way to church every night to pray that she can find a better housing situation.

She also comes to MEDA.

That’s because she knows MEDA’s Housing Opportunities team can assist with helping clients fill out applications for below-market-rate (BMR) affordable housing lotteries — and to get “rental ready.” With the production of market-rate housing on the increase the past few years, that has translated to more of these BMR apartment rentals being available, per City mandates.

MEDA has already assisted many low-income community members to find affordable housing: There have been 100 families, mostly Latino, who have won the lottery and moved into their BMR apartments in San Francisco. Seventy-five children are now housed and able to have a stable life, which translates to their doing better in school.

Valentina is hopeful that she, too, can win the City’s housing lottery … and live out the last chapter of her life with dignity.

MEDA is working to make that a reality.


Do you need help finding affordable housing?

Contact MEDA’s Housing Opportunities team @ (415) 282-3334 ext. 126; Also, there are walk-in appointments every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.


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