New health department initiative highlights lack of housing affordability in S.F. 

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To cover rent on a two-bedroom apartment at “fair market value” in South of Market, a San Francisco minimum-wage earner would have to work 7.4 full-time jobs.

That is just one fascinating tidbit from a new interactive map plotting housing affordability in San Francisco. Combining data from Craigslist and PadMapper, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and The City’s $10.24 hourly minimum wage, the map was created by the Department of Public Health’s Program on Health, Equity and Sustainability.

The data reveals that the median income in SoMa is $91,000 lower than the $158,000 one would need to afford a market-rate two-bedroom apartment. This is known as the “affordability gap,” and the map plots these gaps neighborhood by neighborhood.

It was rolled out as part of a weeklong effort to raise public awareness about the link between affordable housing and public health, explains Cyndy Comerford, manager of planning and fiscal policy at the Environmental Health division of Public Health. “Unmet housing needs in San Francisco can result in significant public health concerns,” she said.

A lack of affordable housing can push tenants into substandard or overcrowded living situations, or up against a highway, for instance, putting tenants in close proximity to noise, traffic or air pollution, thus increasing their risks for experiencing heart or respiratory problems. Substandard housing also makes lead or mold exposure more likely, possibly triggering serious health issues over time.

Other problems can arise for residents who spend a significant percentage of their income on rent. “It leaves little money for other provisions,” such as healthy food or preventative health care, Comerford adds, so low-income tenants have a higher likelihood of malnourishment or preventable disease related to nutrition.

The map is part of a broader Public Health initiative known as the Sustainable Communities Index, which provides datasets for more than 100 health indicators.

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