June 18, 2020 – The affordable housing crisis in San Francisco has reached legendary proportions. Construction costs have skyrocketed, available land is scarce, demand for housing remains high because tech workers have flocked to the city, and homelessness rates have escalated as income inequality rises. As a result, developers of affordable housing have found it challenging to keep up.

More than a dozen years in the making, the recently completed 222 Taylor, a 113-unit building for low-income and formerly homeless families and individuals in the city’s Tenderloin District, illustrates the long road that affordable housing projects often face in San Francisco, as well as the design strategies that can make the most of constrained budgets and still pay attention to enhancing the urban realm and fostering a sense of community among residents.

The Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) is a nonprofit organization founded in San Francisco in 1981 to provide affordable housing and services for people with low incomes in the Tenderloin neighborhood and throughout the city. In January 2008, TNDC acquired a parking lot at the corner of Eddy and Taylor streets with the help of $10 million from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

In March 2009, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved TNDC’s development plan for the site, then known as Eddy and Taylor Family Housing. The building was originally envisioned as a 14-story structure with 150 affordable apartments above 14,250 square feet (1,320 sq m) of ground-floor commercial space that TNDC hoped would include a full-service grocery store—badly needed in a neighborhood that offered only corner markets.

Negotiations with dozens of grocery chains ensued. Fresh and Easy, a chain then based in the United Kingdom, required a redesign to include a parking podium, which would have added $2 million in construction costs. (The chain eventually pulled out of the project.)

The economic downturn following the 2008 financial crisis, however, led TNDC to put the plan on hold in fall 2009. In 2011, California dissolved its redevelopment agencies, dealing a further blow to affordable housing projects across the state.

“Eddy and Taylor’s largest obstacle was the Great Recession and subsequent cuts to funding at the city level in 2008 and then at the state level with the end of redevelopment,” says Nick Wilder, then a project manager for TNDC.

Article by Daniel Simons and Amanda Loper, Urban Land Institute

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