Are San Francisco Nonprofits Getting Priced Out?

Dozens of nonprofits have applied for public funding in response to a rise in commercial rents corresponding with San Francisco's growing status as a tech hub. The city has launched a fund intended to prevent nonprofits from going under, but for many organizations, it's already too late.

San Francisco’s increasing status as the center of the tech universe has strained many of the city’s residents—and that includes nonprofits, too.

A low unemployment rate and ever-rising rents have forced many residents to look elsewhere for places to live. (To give you an idea of how crazy things are: On Monday, real estate site Curbed highlighted a 216-square-foot apartment renting for $1,425 per month.)

Money we would have raised for more services is going to the construction.

The situation is similar for commercial rents, which Bloomberg Businessweek notes are expected to top New York City’s next year. As a result, many local nonprofits find themselves in tight spots. Between 2011 and 2013, about 2,000 of the city’s roughly 8,000 nonprofits left town or shut down in the face of the rent increases; others, such as Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, were forced to move to offices in cheaper neighborhoods that required significant renovation before the organizations could even move in.

“Money we would have raised for more services is going to the construction,” the organization’s Nancy Nielsen told the magazine.

The city of San Francisco has attempted to help nonprofits priced out of their current locations: This year, it launched a $4.5 million fund to assist with moving costs, lease negotiations, and office searches. The San Francisco Examiner reported this week that 42 nonprofits applied for funds ahead of the November deadline. All are involved with social services or the arts.

But the funding won’t help the nonprofits pay their current rents—a sore spot for some who see rising rents as temporary.

“I really was very disappointed that it doesn’t use any money for rent support,” Dance Mission Theater’s Krissy Keefer told the Examiner. The organization’s monthly rent recently rose by $2,200 to $10,000.

Nonetheless, the funding will go to organizations in need in February, with technical assistance coming in January.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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