Home Sweet Home in San Francisco

March 2, 2017

by Mandy Shold

From the salty ocean spray that greets the Golden Gate Bridge, to the intoxicating smell of funnel cakes and the barking of sea lions at Pier 39, there’s something magical about the place Karl the Fog calls home. But for such a universally adored city, there is something notably absent from San Francisco – affordable family housing.

A densely populated 7×7 square miles, San Francisco continually tops the charts as the country’s most unaffordable city. And, despite countless efforts to expand low-income housing and protect existing property rights, there’s always one forgotten group. San Francisco’s missing middle – lost somewhere between the booming tech scene, sprawling gentrification and the ever-growing homeless population. And as that missing middle gets pushed out, so do the city’s families.

Last month, the San Francisco Planning Department just released a report revealing that San Francisco has the smallest percentage of kids – less than 18 percent – of any city in the nation. What exactly does that number mean? Simply put, city-dwellers are more likely to have a family dog than a family.

Leading the fight to address the Bay Area’s complex housing issues is Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

For more than 25 years, Habitat for Humanity has been building homes and strengthening communities in and around San Francisco. In partnership with thousands of volunteers and hard-working families, Habitat has been able to provide a critical path to financial security for families who currently abide and work in the Bay Area – many of whom have lived in San Francisco their whole lives.

This year, to celebrate its 70th anniversary, FleishmanHillard in San Francisco is teaming up with Habitat to help jumpstart a series of important announcements and programs. Last month, we partnered with Habitat around the completion of its newest development, Habitat Terrace.  Together our team helped tell the story of some of the community’s newest homeowners and how Habitat managed to turn a vacant lot into affordable housing for 11 longtime San Francisco-based families.

Meet Jennifer Longaway – a San Francisco native and stay-at-home mom who, along with her husband and two young children, spent the past five years bouncing around San Francisco, trying to stay close to extended family despite skyrocketing rent and increasing home scarcity. Just as she and her husband had started lose hope and begun looking at leaving their precious city, they got the call from Habitat.

Fast forward to a chilly Saturday morning in late January –Jennifer, her family, and ten other families were given comically oversized keys to their new “forever” homes in an emotional and well-attended dedication ceremony.

That’s 11 families whose children could now ride their bike down the street by their house. Use sidewalk chalk on their driveways. Take first day of school photos in front of the same front door, year after year.

Naturally, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience – including my own!

I am honored that we were able to help tell Jennifer’s story and how, with the help of Habitat, she finally became a homeowner.

Reflecting on my own experience, growing up I moved around a lot. Countries, states, cities – you name it. But the older I grew, the more fascinated I became the concept of “home” – a bold, poetic notion that I couldn’t have been prouder to honor with FleishmanHillard’s social inclusion project.

You can read more in about dedication and Habitat’s strive towards affordable home ownership in this feature story from the San Francisco Chronicle, set in tandem with this coordinated op-ed. Both pieces were so well received within Habitat for Humanity, that they were showcased in an appeal to donors across the network, helping build momentum for future Habitat developments in the area.

Habitat’s next big move-in weekend is set for June, and our San Francisco office is already hard at work developing new narratives, media training more spokespeople, and figuring out how we can help welcome home our new neighbors.