The nation’s housing policy for the poor can feel like a giant lottery. Sometimes it actually is a lottery.
SAN FRANCISCO — For $1,200 a month, Patricia Torres and her family were renting a bedroom, a share of time in the bathroom, one vegetable drawer and one shelf in the fridge, and two cupboards over the stove. They rented not so much a home as a fraction of one.
Karen Calderon had even less: a single room in a homeless shelter where she was not allowed so much as a hot plate to cook for her family.
Adrian Caratowsa had a studio he’d remade as his own, repainting the walls and wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets. But every day for five years, he walked out into a neighborhood he found depressing.
For each, San Francisco’s housing crisis had meant living without essential elements of home. A large affordable housing development rising downtown promised what they did not have: 95 complete homes, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with privacy, a sense of peace, a place to cook.
The development, Natalie Gubb Commons, was reserved for households with incomes up to 50 percent of the local median. The applications were open for three weeks last fall, and 6,580 households applied for a chance to rent there, or nearly 70 for each unit.
Getting ahead in San Francisco is never easy. Even if you work a full-time job.
For 4.5 years, Audrey and Garrett Ruhland rented a 385-square foot Nob Hill apartment. Until they decided enough was enough.
“Everything – from rent, to groceries to transportation, to dining out – was a money suck,” said Audrey. “And our apartment was so small! We went into that living situation knowing it was going to be expensive – but we got frustrated by how much we were paying for how little.”
The two started sailboat shopping before they ever thought about living aboard.
But soon after they bought the 35′ Rafiki sailboat, they decided to give up the apartment life.
“It’s been my husband’s dream to live on a sailboat for quite some time,” said Audrey. “Since we don’t have kids and don’t own a house, now seemed like the right time to do it. It also seemed like a great way to save money.”