PUBLICATION — Chinatown Substandard Housing Report

Substandard Housing Conditions in San Francisco Chinatown:

Health Impacts on Low-Income Immigrant Tenants

Chinese Progressive Association, August 2005 — Low-income renters in San Francisco often live in unhealthy and unsafe housing. Tenants trace the roots of these conditions to the lack of affordable housing, living wage jobs, and support in knowing their rights and health risks. In Chinatown, specifically, they also point to barriers of language and public transportation to explain why they put up with Chinatown’s poor housing conditions. Given the extremely limited options for low-income immigrant tenants in San Francisco, it is particularly important for government agencies to ensure that housing, health, and fire codes are adequately enforced in these communities and the health and safety of vulnerable residents are protected.

Key findings include:
  1. Housing, Health and Fire Code violations are widespread in Chinatown housing. 87% of tenants surveyed reported one code violation, and 62% reported multiple code violations.
  2. Violations of the Health Code were the most widespread problems. Four of the five most reported problems are violations of the Health Code: Insect and Rodent Infestation, Unsanitary Conditions, Noise Disturbances and Second Hand Smoke Exposure. The fifth most frequently reported problem was Lack of Heat, a violation of the Housing Code.
  3. Very few tenants have complained to their landlord and even fewer have complained to a government code enforcement agency or a community organization. 28% of tenants reported that they have complained to their landlord about a problem. Only 11% of tenants reported that they have complained to a government agency or a community organization about their housing problems.
  4. Tenants overwhelmingly support stronger government responsiveness to these housing problems through pro-active routine code enforcement inspections. 82% of tenants surveyed agreed with the statement that the government should conduct routine code enforcement inspections.
  5. Tenants expressed a strong interest in getting involved in a community-wide effort to improve housing conditions. 61% of tenants surveyed said that they wanted to get involved in a campaign to improve housing conditions.
Policy recommendations outlined in the report:
To strengthen enforcement of the San Francisco Health Code in Chinatown housing and protect the health of vulnerable tenants, Chinatown tenant leaders and CPA developed the following policy recommendations for the City:
  1. Create a community-based code enforcement system to conduct tenant-led outreach, education and basic routine inspections of all SROs and apartment buildings in Chinatown
  2. Allocate $200,000 more per year of the Tourist Hotel Tax Fund to low-income housing, designated toward community-based code enforcement
  3. Increase fines for code violations and fees for inspections paid by building owners, and designate revenue toward community-based code enforcement
  4. Subsidize the creation of a special janitorial company specializing in maintaining residential hotels
  5. Require property managers to complete a fee-based training on landlord responsibilities and tenant rights

Download the report for complete results: Chinatown Substandard Housing Health Report