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Senior Housing in San Francisco Provides Resident Services and Energy Efficient Living

990 Polk has 110 rental units and 2,850 square feet of ground floor retail space.
990 Polk has 110 rental units and 2,850 square feet of ground floor retail space.
Credit: Cesar Rubio
The Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco, California, is known to be one of the most diverse and vibrant in the city. However, compared to San Francisco as a whole, the Tenderloin district’s residents are economically disadvantaged. The area has a lower median household income than San Francisco overall and higher percentages of residents who live in poverty, are unemployed, minimally educated, and elderly.1 In addition, the San Francisco Metro Area ranks among the most expensive renter jurisdictions in the country. Two local nonprofit organizations, Citizens Housing Corporation (CHC) and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) co-developed an affordable multifamily rental project that addresses the specific needs of the Tenderloin neighborhood. The rental property at 990 Polk was completed in late 2008, and TNDC has managed it since 2009 when CHC ceased operations, and at present remains a singular achievement for the City in meeting the housing needs for homeless seniors. The project serves the neighborhood’s homeless and low-income seniors with sustainable construction and operation measures and provides them with convenient services, which make it a model for affordable green housing in the region.

990 Polk is unique in San Francisco in that it provides affordable housing units for low-income senior households (age 55 and older), as well as for formerly homeless and at-risk seniors as part of the city’s 10-Year Plan to Abolish Homelessness. The rental property consists of 110 studio and one-bedroom units. Fifty units are reserved for formerly homeless seniors and fifty units are for low-income seniors. The remaining 10 units are set aside for at-risk individuals. The rents and other expenses for units reserved for formerly homeless and at-risk individuals, specifically those suffering from mental illness, are subsidized through San Francisco’s Local Operating Subsidy Program and the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) housing program. There are retail spaces on the ground floor and communal spaces throughout the development offering a community kitchen, laundry facility and outdoor areas for resident use.

The financing for the development’s $36.6 cost came from a variety of sources. The Mayor’s Office of Housing provided $14.6 million for the project. Bank of America and Enterprise Community Partners supplied $20 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) equity. The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Program and MHSA each provided an additional $1 million for the project.

990 Polk’s rooftop gardens provide an outdoor patio as well as a space where residents can plant their own fruits and vegetables.
990 Polk’s rooftop gardens provide an outdoor patio as well as a space where residents can plant their own fruits and vegetables. Credit: Cesar Rubio
Innovation at 990 Polk

In addition to its innovative combination of resident populations, 990 Polk’s sustainable construction and amenities make it a potential model for future senior rental housing. The appliances and lighting are all energy efficient with low/no VOC (volatile organic compounds) interior paint and low emissivity windows. Fiber-cement covers the exterior of the apartment building. The development’s green features make it nearly 18 percent more energy efficient than California’s energy standard (Title 24) requires.

A comprehensive array of services located on-site is tailored to address residents’ physical and mental health needs and to ease formerly homeless individuals’ transition to home maintenance. Diverse services including life skills courses, cooking instruction, and computer courses are provided by Lutheran Social Services. The San Francisco Department of Public Health staffs a nurse and sends doctors regularly to treat residents. Residents with physical limitations benefit from the California In-Home Support Services program, which brings Meals on Wheels and offers transportation. TNDC received thousands of applications for the units. All units were filled within two months after construction was completed demonstrating that 990 Polk meets a significant need for affordable senior housing in the Tenderloin neighborhood.