How to afford buying a house in San Francisco?

Posted on
January 7, 2022

How the lottery for housing works in San Francisco?

Most lotteries for San Francisco affordable housing programs are now run electronically. The lotteries are open to the public, although you don’t have to be at the lottery to be eligible.

1. Running the lottery

For electronic lottery (all rentals and new sales)

All the lottery numbers are randomly sorted by running a program on Each applicant is assigned an "unfiltered" ranking between 1 and the total number of applicants. For example, in a lottery with 3,000 applicants, each applicant will be assigned a number between 1 and 3,000.

For physical lottery (resales)

A list of lottery ticket numbers will be displayed before the lottery begins. All the tickets will be placed into a bin and pulled at random in ranking order.

2. Filtering by preference

Preferences are only used for mixed-income below-market-rate listings

The lottery report is then filtered by lottery preference category. Having a lottery preference improves your chances in a housing lottery. They give current and former San Francisco residents a better chance of living in the City. Anyone who has a lottery preference is taken from the unfiltered list and sorted into a separate list.

Example: Julie has an "unfiltered" ranking of 11, and Bob has an "unfiltered" ranking of 15. They are both in the Displaced Tenant Housing Preference. Julie and Bob have the highest "unfiltered" rankings of all other applicants in that preference. So, Julie would have a ranking of 1 and Bob would have a ranking of 2 in the Displaced Tenant Housing Preference.

3. Posting

All lottery results are posted online to their listing no later than one week after the lottery.

4. After the lottery

The property manager or leasing agent will start contacting households in lottery rank order, sorted by preference. You must provide current or updated financial documents as soon as we ask for them. Otherwise we may skip you and go to the next-ranked household in the lottery.

Once you're are ready to take on this process, go to the San Francisco housing portal DAHLIA to start your process.

Check also California Housing Finance Agency to see if you qualify for additional funding.  

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