Bay Area Housing: The Path Forward – Protection

Bay Area Housing: The Path Forward – Protection

Bay Area Housing: The Path Forward



Meeting Immediate Needs by Ensuring Housing Stability in the Bay Area

News coverage often centers on the visible homelessness crisis, with more than 38,000 Bay Area residents experiencing homelessness on any given night in 2022. Less visible is the number of lower-income families who are precariously housed and are just one paycheck or health emergency away from eviction, displacement, or falling into homelessness.

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Bay Area rents are among the highest in the nation. An astounding 70% of the region’s 457,000 “Extremely Low Income” (ELI) households[1] pay more than 50% of their income on housing costs. Compare that to just 1% of moderate-income renters.[2] Often living in overcrowded, unsafe spaces, a high percentage of these ELI households have children, are single-parent families, or are headed by seniors. The burden falls most heavily on families of color, with Black households nearly twice as likely to fall into the extremely low-income category compared to their white counterparts.

The availability of government housing assistance falls far short of demand. Less than 20% of the nation’s ELI households receive housing subsidies. At the same time, the mortgage interest deduction is a $25 billion government subsidy that largely helps people with moderate incomes and above.

Protecting tenants is essential for the thousands of Bay Area families who receive eviction notices annually. Many will leave their homes without knowing their legal rights or recourse. Some can’t afford a new home, increasing the number of unhoused people on the streets or in need of shelter. While Black families are only one-fifth of renters, over half of all eviction filings are against Black renters. Black individuals are five times more likely to experience homelessness than white individuals. Tenant protection strategies include policies like just cause eviction, rent control, tenant anti-harassment. It also includes rental assistance, legal services, and tenants rights workshops.

Keeping people in their homes before they become unhoused helps ensure families remain stable and housed. It is also significantly less expensive than responding after someone has lost their housing. Both tenant protection and homelessness prevention actions are intended to stabilize families and include pre-eviction and eviction legal services, emergency rental assistance, and relocation assistance. Homelessness prevention assistance is often more service-enriched and typically includes case management services. These efforts work: Santa Clara County’s Homelessness Prevention System (HPS) has a 93% success rate in keeping families housed at a one-time cost of $10,000 per family, compared to the annual cost of providing services to unhoused residents of $35,000 to $80,000 per person.

[1] Families earning less than 30% of Area Median Income (AMI). In Santa Clara County, for example, a four-person ELI household would make between $0 and $54,390.

[2] Families earning between 80-120% of AMI. In Santa Clara County a four-person moderate-income household would make between $145,040 and $217,560.


Our Priorities

Tenant protection legislation

We support tenants by advocating for legislation that helps keep them housed (such as the pandemic eviction moratorium) and that expands tenant protections and legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

Comprehensive programs

We prevent homelessness by supporting comprehensive programs, like Keep Oakland Housed, that meet people’s needs across a broad continuum of services.

Protection in Action

Examples of SFF grantees keeping people in their homes.

Policy Change

Examples of policy solutions that create systemic change

Bringing more resources to the field

A powerful community of donors is helping provide the deeply needed resources to fuel this work.

Bright Spots

In addition to SFF grantees, our whole community is working hard to address our housing needs. Here are some bright spots. 

Read More on Protecting Tenants and Preventing Homelessness

Informative Websites

Tenant Protections

Housing Matters – An Urban Institute Initiative (October 26, 2023)

Eviction Lab (December 16, 2020)

Eviction Lab (October 3, 2023)

Shelterforce (November 15, 2022)

Terner Center for Housing Innovation (May 4, 2020)

Princeton University Journal of Public & International Affairs (May 21, 2019)

National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (November 2023)

cityhealth: An initiative of the Beaumont Foundation + Kaiser Permanente (March 30, 2022)

ACLU (May 11, 2022)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (October 2, 2023)

Homelessness & Prevention

University of Notre Dame (July 13, 2023)

Economic Roundtable (2015)

Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (June 2023)

All Home, California Budget Policy Center, and the Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality (September 21, 2023)

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (May 2022)

Terner Center for Housing Innovation, UC Berkeley (December 2021)