How the lottery works

Most lotteries for our 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 random.org. 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.

    • For renters, it may be months before you can move in. The timeline depends on the leasing agent and the state of the building.
    • For homebuyers, there are additional requirements for closing the property. See post-lottery process for homebuyers »