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Where $117K Is Considered ‘Low-Income’

June 29, 2018

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development released new income guidelines for who can qualify for its low-income housing assistance, and one city’s “low income” level is turning heads. In San Francisco, HUD has deemed those earning $117,400 a year as having low income. The income is based on a family of four.

Each year, HUD sets income limits that determine who can qualify for housing assistance, such as Section 8 vouchers, public housing, and its other assistance programs. In its income calculations, HUD considers an area’s median family income and housing costs. Households that earn 80 percent of the formula amount are deemed “low income,” those earning 50 percent are considered “very low income,” and those earning 30 percent are “extremely low income.”

In the San Francisco metro area, an income of $44,000 or less for a family of four is considered “extremely low income”; a household earning $73,300 would be “very low income”; and $117,400 is deemed “low income,” according to HUD’s latest calculations.

High home values that are increasing the cost of living in San Francisco are likely a big factor for a six-figure salary to be considered low income. The median home value in the San Francisco metro area in April was $947,500; the median rent was $3,300 a month. In the first quarter of 2018, only 15 percent of San Francisco county residents could afford a median-priced home, according to Paragon Real Estate Group.

Despite the “low income” label, San Francisco households earning $117,400 a year won’t be able to qualify for public housing or vouchers, a HUD spokesman told CNN. Recipients of federal assistance usually earn around $18,000 a year. But San Francisco’s HUD income limit would allow some middle class workers to qualify for affordable housing developments.

“Teachers, firefighters, people who work in restaurants commute crazy hours because they live so far out,” says Susan Popkin, an Urban Institute fellow.

View HUD’s income limits by metro area.