Let’s pass this SF Affordable Housing Bond and get to work.

Rebecca Foster
4 min readMar 4, 2024

As CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, I spend my time developing the tools to deliver affordable housing faster and at the scale we need. I’m proud of how we’ve teamed up with local government, community-based organizations, and philanthropy to put these tools to use to finance over 2,000 affordable homes in the last seven years.

I’m proud that our organization is an example of San Francisco at its best: innovative and caring deeply for our neighbors in this awesomely quirky, colorful, and compassionate city we call home. Like so many great organizations in San Francisco, we started scrappy. We’ve grown here because this city draws the best talent across sectors, and because we and our partners share a commitment to use our resources to make the Bay Area a place where everyone has opportunity.

My organization, the Housing Accelerator Fund, works with the City and developers to speed up housing timelines, lower costs, cut bureaucratic red tape, and pursue creative technologies and novel approaches that will help us put a dent in our 40,000 affordable home shortfall. We have so much more work to do, but we also have proven solutions worth scaling together to meet the needs of this moment.

The Housing Accelerator Fund worked with Mercy Housing to build 145 brand-new studios for formerly homeless people at 40% of the cost and time these projects typically take. Now we’re replicating the success of that project with a new building in the Mission that will break ground in April.

HAF CEO Rebecca Foster celebrating the grand opening of Tahanan Supportive Housing

Last summer, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation began welcoming residents to 921 Howard Street in SoMa. The tallest affordable housing development in the City, 921 Howard with its 203 units represents strides in the right direction; it serves families across an income spectrum from low to middle income. To get 921 Howard over the finish line, TNDC and co-developer Curtis Development pivoted multiple times despite the pandemic, ultimately delivering the project for $720,000/door, with only about $100,000 per unit drawn from local funds.

TNDC’s 203-unit affordable housing development at 921 Howard St

The Housing Accelerator Fund also stepped in with over $100M of fast-acting bridge loans to help San Francisco lock in matching awards from the State’s Homekey program, helping to buy 3 buildings that added over 500 units of supportive housing citywide. The City sprinted like no other in the State to leverage this opportunity to house people during the pandemic — using Homekey funds to buy seven buildings to house over 830 residents, a large contributor to our 11% drop in chronic homelessness — rare in the State.

These successful projects depended on partnership, problem-solving, philanthropy, and creativity. They especially depended on investments of public money, shepherded by City departments following a clear public mandate to direct resources to affordable housing. Now it’s up to voters to approve the next tranche of funds needed to keep making permanently affordable housing work by passing Prop A on the March ballot.

A Yes vote on Prop A is a vote to house the most vulnerable members of our community and the people who make this City thrive. $30 million is allocated to Victims and Survivors Housing. The funds will go to create new safe homes for survivors of domestic abuse, run by trusted community organizations with years of service experience. For example, if Prop A passes, the Women’s Housing Coalition will seek a funding award in support of their efforts to create the Community Forward Women’s Center, an ambitious and inspiring project including a 90 bed drop in shelter, 150 transitional housing units and workforce development programs focused on the needs of homeless women. The group is eyeing disused office space for the project, giving a second life to vacant downtown real estate.

A Yes vote on Prop A will allow local nonprofits to acquire buildings where longtime residents are at risk of losing their housing, or are underhoused. Since the Housing Accelerator Fund launched, we have partnered with community-based organizations like Chinatown CDC and Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to permanently protect some 800 units of existing affordable housing, a strategy known as preservation. Chinatown CDC has used this strategy to acquire and improve SROs in Chinatown and adjacent neighborhoods, stabilizing hundreds of extremely-low income households. Once these units are part of the organization’s housing portfolio, Chinatown CDC is often able to move overcrowded families into larger apartments that better fit their needs. Prop A earmarks $30 million to continue San Francisco’s preservation strategies, which have become a national model.

Bonds like Prop A make the pie bigger. 71% of San Franciscans voted on 2019’s Prop A, a $600M bond that brought over $1B of resources to our city for housing. Since 2017 SF has leveraged $2.6B in federal and state funds to more than triple its local investment in affordable housing, producing over 9,000 affordable homes.

At the Housing Accelerator Fund, we focus on continuous improvement and trying new things. We, like so many other companies here, have ambitious goals to keep solving problems and growing — our next goal is to finance over 5,000 homes while pushing on all fronts to deliver homes faster and more efficiently. We can only do this in a place where our neighbors and partners continue to believe we can boldly innovate and be radically compassionate at the same time, and in fact, that this is fundamental to who we are. Let’s pass this bond together and get to work!

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Rebecca Foster
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CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund