Recognizing That the Current Housing Crisis Poses a Serious Barrier To the Promotion of Effective Public Health Practices (April 20, 1999)

WHEREAS, the City and County of San Francisco is experiencing an unprecedented housing affordability crisis evidenced by a less than 1% vacancy rate in the rental housing market, which is contributing to increased homelessness, overcrowding, and substandard living conditions; and,

WHEREAS, the rise in rents over the last three years has dramatically outpaced the rise in income for low-wage earners and persons receiving public benefits, with rents for vacant apartments often exceeding 100% of the income for such persons; and,

WHEREAS, fires have destroyed a significant amount of the stock of single room occupancy hotels and many existing hotels are at risk of fire related damage; and,

WHEREAS, housing is an integral part of the public health continuum and the lack of affordable housing poses a significant barrier to improving the health status for indigent residents, who revolve through emergency shelter and medical systems without access to stable housing; and, 

WHEREAS, access to stable housing is fundamental to meaningfully address many of the issues facing homeless people, including mental health, substance abuse, other health conditions, and child welfare issues; and,

WHEREAS, decent housing is a cost effective alternative to the current over-utilization of emergency and acute services, and the availability of housing for persons who would be otherwise homeless often prevents manageable health problems from escalating into serious, debilitating, and costly conditions; and,

WHEREAS, safe and clean housing is critical to the well-being of all individuals, families and communities, as unhealthy housing conditions can lead to serious medical conditions, such as asthma and lead poisoning; and,

WHEREAS, a lack of affordable housing poses particular risks to homeless women who are vulnerable to acts of violence; 33 percent of women living on the streets and 15 percent of women living in shelters report sexual assaults; and,

WHEREAS, a lack of affordable housing destabilizes families which are predominantly headed by women in their late twenties with approximately two or three preschool age children, and contributes to San Francisco's high rate of out-of-home placement of children; and,

WHEREAS, the Department of Public Health currently supports a full continuum of housing options for homeless and disabled persons.  The Department provides approximately $11.5 million in funding that assists over 2,500 people annually through emergency housing vouchers, on-going rent subsidies, and services linked to transitional and permanent housing.  The funding of the Direct Access to Housing Program and the recent opening of the 75-unit Pacific Bay Inn are examples of the Department's latest effort to create supportive housing options for homeless people; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED that the Health Commission and the Department of Public Health are in support of policies that address the current housing crisis in order to facilitate effective public health practices; and, be it further

RESOLVED that the Health Commission directs the Department of Public Health to explore and support any and all options that could increase the supply of affordable housing to extremely low-income, homeless, and disabled residents, including advocacy efforts for increased Federal and State capital and support service funding, local efforts to preserve the existing stock of single room occupancy hotels, increased funding for targeted rental assistance programs, utilization of city-owned or controlled land for the development of non-profit owned affordable housing, and incentives to private owners to upgrade substandard properties in exchange for affordability restrictions; and, be it further

RESOLVED that the Health Commission urges the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution recognizing the current housing crisis in San Francisco.

I hereby certify that the foregoing resolution was adopted by the Health Commission at its meeting of Tuesday, April 20, 1999.

Sandy Ouye Mori, Executive Secretary to the Health Commission