Habitat Terrace in San Francisco provides 28 single-family homes for low- and moderate-income households.
Paige Green Photography Habitat Terrace in San Francisco provides 28 single-family homes for low- and moderate-income households.

In the high-cost San Francisco Bay Area, homeownership is out of reach for many households. However, the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate is striving to increase its impact in the region to help families achieve the American dream of owning a home.

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco has helped to build 248 homes over its 28-year history and continues to look for inventive ways to provide homeownership for households earning between 40% and 80% of the area median income (AMI), or $55,000 to $85,000, respectively, for a family of four.

“Our engine here is this focus on generational impact and the benefit of homeownership for people,” says Maureen Sedonaen, CEO of the affiliate. “It’s a wealth building strategy for low- and moderate-income families. Every dollar they put in, if they sell they get back. In perpetuity, these homes will remain affordable housing.”

Its most recent development, Habitat Terrace, highlights the affiliate’s inventive approaches to creating homeownership opportunities.

Completed in January, the 28 single-family home development brings new life to a vacant lot in San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood, which has been one of the lowest-ranking districts in the city for new affordable housing, and serves low- and moderate-income families.

Habitat identified and purchased the underutilized one-acre lot at the bottom of the housing market in 2012. This was a new move for the affiliate since it previously acquired land through partnerships with redevelopment agencies, which were eliminated by the state in early 2012 in an effort to reduce the state's budget deficit.

What also made the development a reality was the in-lieu fees paid for by a for-profit developer of a nearby high-rise condo project for its affordable housing requirement.

Habitat Terrace received over 420 applications for one of its 11 three-story homes—the most applications the affiliate has received in its history. The 11 homes were sold to qualified homeowners earning between 40% and 60% of the AMI (an average of $53,000 a year for a family of four) through the traditional Habitat model of a 0% interest loan, zero down payment, and 500 hours of sweat equity. The 11 new Habitat families have lived in San Francisco for between 11 and 30 years, with nine of the households living within a mile of the development before moving there.

“There’s a lot of demand for affordable homeownership opportunities,” says Sedonaen.

The project’s remaining 17 homes are below market rate and will be sold to households earning up to 90% of the AMI, which is $96,000 for a family of four, through the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) via a lottery.

Almost half of the $11.5 million development cost for Habitat Terrace came from the San Francisco MOHCD. Additional financing was provided from a private developer partnership, donor commitments, and a small percentage of state and federal funding.

Philanthropic partners for Habitat Terrace included PG&E, Wells Fargo, Salesforce, Solid Rock Foundation, and Oracle. In addition, more than 234,000 volunteer hours were logged.

“It really was a public-private partnership that made Habitat Terrace what it is today,” says Sedonaen. “Habitat Terrace is a great model for other cities.”

Sedonaen, who became CEO of the affiliate in August, is working toward the organization’s vision of doubling its homebuilding efforts by 2020.

Another 10 single-family homes two blocks from downtown Novato were just completed at the end of May. Mt. Burdell Place had over 240 applicants for its three-bedroom, energy-efficient homes.

The affiliate is planning 20 condominium homes in downtown Redwood City, less than a mile from transit. The building will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units for households earning between 40% and 80% of the AMI. It also just purchased a small lot in Daley City.

Sedonaen also is looking to increase the conversation about workforce housing with larger nonprofit and for-profit developers to help meet and provide homeownership opportunities for the missing middle, which she says is so often left out of the affordable housing conversation in the Bay Area.

In addition to the homeownership side, the organization works on neighborhood revitalization and is expanding its network to aid vulnerable populations, such as seniors who have been in their homes for decades, with critical repairs for which they don’t have the resources.

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is just one of Habitat for Humanity International’s approximately 1,300 affiliates around the world.

Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has helped more than 9.8 million people obtain safer places to sleep at night. In fiscal year 2016, the nonprofit helped to improve the housing conditions of 3 million people through new home construction, rehab, incremental improvements, repairs, or increased access to improved shelter through partnerships with the private sector.

In the United States alone, Habitat affiliates in more than 1,300 communities built, repaired, and rehabbed 10,292 homes in fiscal 2016.