In a city with thousands of unhoused people, it’s pretty aggravating that housing intended for them is just sitting empty. But there’s some comfort in the fact that SF has cut the vacancy rate at supportive housing sites nearly in half.

It’s no secret that most of what San Francisco calls “supportive housing” for the formerly homeless is located in the Tenderloin, and the lion’s share of this supportive housing is in what we call single-room occupancy hotels (SROs). A little over a year and a half ago, the Chronicle did a deep-dive report into these establishments and found they offered a lifestyle not much better than actually being homeless: with shared bathrooms and kitchens, broken-down facilities, vermin infestations, and rampant drug use and mental illness.  

For these and other reasons, sometimes vacancy at these SROs is quite high, with more than a thousand units (1,060 to be exact)  sitting empty a year ago this time. This is maddening, considering the city is paying money for these units to just sit empty while people are cold and out on the streets. But in a new follow-up, the Chronicle reports now only 730 of those units are vacant, lowering the supportive housing vacancy rate from 7.8% to 11.5%.

Each SRO building has its own unique issues, though the Chron found that about a dozen of the overall 150-some SROs accounted for a third of all the vacant rooms. So identifying the problems is easy, fixing them is likely harder.

“Some buildings will always have a little bit higher vacancies because they have some unique characteristics, but we want to make sure no building is over 10% and the entire portfolio is below 7%,” SF Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing housing placement manager Chris Block told the Chronicle. “That’s the balancing act that we hope to achieve.”

But the primary reason most of those units are sitting empty is paperwork — someone wants a unit, but the wheels of bureaucracy are still spinning to get them into it. SF City Hall bureaucracy is hard enough when you’re a housed person, much harder when you haven’t got a home, let alone a filing cabinet. The city feels it’s making strides in cutting down wait times, and offering hope that maybe those 730 currently vacant units can be occupied as quickly as possible.    

Related: A Huge Number of SF's Supportive Housing Units Are In Run-Down, Vermin-Infested SROs, and It's Barely Better Than Being Homeless [SFist]

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