Overview of the Authority

The Authority was established in 1938 and is one of the first and largest housing authorities in the United States. During the first decades after its inception, the Authority constructed many of its current properties still in use today, including Sunnydale and Potrero Terrace and Annex. Over the next forty years, the Authority expanded its portfolio, eventually becoming one of the largest landlords in San Francisco. The Authority’s primary programs are its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Public Housing programs, serving over 15,000 residents and reaching all neighborhoods and districts within San Francisco. In recent years, the Authority shifted its efforts from property management to leased housing through the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which allows for the transfer of public housing unit property management to third-party management companies while the Authority retains land ownership. The conversion to RAD was the largest in the country and shifted the Authority to a predominantly HCV program.  

On March 7, 2019, HUD informed the Authority that it was in default under its HCV and Public Housing programs. The Authority entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City, dated January 18, 2020, for the City to assume responsibility and oversight over some of the Authority’s essential functions. Under broad policy direction from the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and the Mayor, the Chief Executive Officer is guiding the organization through its transition from being a direct service provider to a high-performing contract management and performance monitoring organization, ensuring compliance with HUD requirements and consistency with city practices. 

Brief History of the Authority's Origin and Development

  • United States Housing Act
    1937

    The United States Congress passed the United States Housing Act to provide decent housing for low-income families, as part of the "New Deal," established by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration.

  • Authority Established
    1938

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors established the Authority in 1938. The Authority is the oldest housing authority in California. Housing Authorities are unique entities established by a combination of federal, state, and local actions.

  • Holly Courts
    1940

    The Authority opened Holly Courts, the City's first low-income housing development, for 118 families. This community was the first public housing development west of the Mississippi River. Potrero Terrace (469 units), Sunnydale (767 units), Valencia Gardens (246 units), and Westside Courts (136 units), followed closely and were completed by 1943. This building boom was part of the war effort to support the 35,000 service members, war workers, and their families who came to San Francisco to assist in winning World War II.

  • Period of Expansion
    1940 to 1970

    The Authority expanded significantly during this era due to an infusion of capital funds from HUD to build new residences and to make improvements such as replacing boilers and roofs, modernize and rehabilitate aging housing as well as to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.

  • Housing Choice Voucher Program Established
    1974

    The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program was established to provide low-income families with subsidies to rent privately owned housing in the City.

  • Growth in Developments
    1974 to 2014

    During this period the Authority grew to include 45 developments located throughout San Francisco’s various neighborhoods.

  • HOPE SF
    2007 to Today

    The HOPE SF initiative seeks to transform four of San Francisco’s most distressed public housing sites into vibrant, thriving communities through holistic revitalization. HOPE SF will transform 2,500 severely deteriorated public housing sites into sustainable, mixed-income communities with neighborhood retail, community centers, parks, and playgrounds while replacing every public housing unit and adding new homes to the four project sites. The final mix of housing will include public housing, market-rate, and affordable rental and ownership housing. This initiative continues today, you can learn more about the HOPE SF initiative here.

  • RAD
    2014

    The original 6,371 units of public housing built or acquired between 1940 and 1996 have gradually been redeveloped through the HOPE IV, HOPE SF, or RAD programs. The RAD program allows for the transfer of public housing unit property management to third-party management companies while the Authority retains land ownership. The conversion to RAD was the largest in the country and shifted the Authority to a predominantly HCV program.  

  • Default
    2019

    On March 7, 2019, HUD informed the Authority that it was in default under its HCV Consolidated Annual Contributions Contract (ACC) and its Low Rent Public Housing (LRPH) Consolidated Annual Contributions Contract.

  • MOU with the City of San Francisco
    2020

    The Authority entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City, dated January 18, 2020, for the City to assume responsibility and oversight over some of the Authority’s essential functions. Under broad policy direction from the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and the Mayor, the Chief Executive Officer is guiding the organization through its transition from being a direct service provider to a high-performing contract management and performance monitoring organization, ensuring compliance with HUD requirements and consistency with city practices. 

  • Authority Cures Default
    2020

    With a renewed focus on improving organizational accountability and the quality of life for the over 15,000 marginalized households who rely on the Authority for stable housing, on October 1, 2020, the Authority was notified by HUD that it had cured its default.