Lottery Preference Programs

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. They are laws put in place by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.

You can select one or more of these preferences when you apply for rental or ownership housing. There are preferences for City-sponsored housing, and project-specific preferences.

You may also dispute your eligibility for a preference before the lottery.

Lottery preferences affect lottery ranking order

After the lottery, all the applicants are ranked, and then sorted by preference. The lists will then be ordered by preference priority, before the general list. Applications are processed by preference priority, in lottery rank order.

Diagram of lottery filtering. Applicants with preferences are pulled out of the unfiltered lottery list, then ranked separately. Applications are processed by preference priority, in lottery rank order.

Lottery preferences affect housing availability

When a unit is taking applications, a percentage of them are set aside for each preference. The total number of reserved units depends on the property.

If there are remaining units available, MOHCD will start contacting applicants in the next preference list.

One lottery preference per household

Only one household member needs to have a preference. Then the entire household qualifies for that preference during the lottery.

Example: Three household members live in LA, but one lives in SF. The entire household would qualify for the Live or Work in SF preference.


Preferences for City-sponsored affordable housing

These preferences appear in the following priority, on most of our housing opportunities.

  1. Certificate of Preference (COP)

    • For former San Francisco residents displaced in the 1960s and 70s, during the SF Redevelopment Agency’s federally-funded urban renewal program.
      • Addresses affected were in the Western Addition and Hunters Point. However, not all addresses in these neighborhoods are eligible.
    • All available units can be set aside for applicants with COP.

    If you lived at an affected address between in the 1960s and 1970s, you may be able claim this preference. You will need to prove you lived at the address at that time.

    Read more about COP »

  2. Displaced Tenant Housing Preference Program (DTHP)

    DTHP is only available in properties with 5 or more units in a MOHCD program.

    • Two ways for San Francisco residents to be eligible:
      • For tenants evicted by Ellis Act or owner move-in.
        • You’ll need prove that your landlord issued one of the following:
          • Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOI)
          • Eviction Notice
      • For tenants whose apartment was extensively damaged by fire.
        • You’ll need to provide a signed Fire Displacement Verification Form.
    • 20% of available units can be set aside for applicants with DTHP.

    Read more about DTHP »

  3. Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference (NRHP)

    NRHP is only available in new properties funded by MOHCD. The property must also have a total of 5 or more units in a MOHCD program.

    • For San Francisco residents who currently live in the same Supervisor district as, or half-mile from, the property being applied to.
      • If you’re applying online on DAHLIA, the application will alert you if you are eligible.
      • When applying on paper and you are not sure, check the box for this preference and we will check your address for you. If you are not eligible, your application will go into the general lottery pool.
      • You’ll need to add documents to your application that prove your residency. See the accepted documents checklist »
    • 40% of available units can be set aside for applicants with NRHP.
  4. Live or Work in San Francisco

    This preference appears on every lottery we have.

    • Two ways to be eligible:
      • You already live in San Francisco. You’ll need to add documents to your application that prove your residency.
      • You work at least 75% of your working hours in San Francisco. You’ll need to add documents to your application that prove your employment.
      • See the accepted documents checklist »
    • Any available units left are set aside for applicants with a Live or Work in SF preference.

Project-specific preferences

The following preferences appear in the following priority, only on certain properties.

  1. Former resident of the property

    (ex: Alice Griffith Housing Development Resident)

    • For former residents of the renovated project.
    • All available units can be set aside for former residents.

    If you lived at the development before renovation, you can claim this preference to live at the development again. You’ll need to prove you resided there.

  2. Rent Burdened / Assisted Housing Preference

    This preference is only available for some OCII-sponsored properties in the Bayview (Ex: Hunter’s View, Alice Griffith).

    • Two ways to be eligible:
      • You’re currently paying more than 50% of your income toward housing costs.
        • In your application, you’ll need to include:
          • A copy of your current lease agreement
          • Proof of your most current rent payment
      • You’re living in public housing or project-based Section 8 housing within San Francisco.
        • In your application, you’ll need to include a copy of your current lease agreement
    • 100% of available units can be set aside.

Dispute your preference eligibility

If you are applying online, DAHLIA will show you a list of preferences you are eligible for.

If you disagree with your eligibility for a preference, do the following at least 2 days before the lottery:

  1. Email lotteryappeal@sfgov.org

    Use the subject line “Request for ___ Housing Preference Consideration.”

    You can also mail or deliver the request in person to:

    Lottery Appeals
    Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development
    1 South Van Ness Ave, 5th Floor
    San Francisco, CA 94103
  2. Include the following information:
    • Lottery ticket number
    • Full name of the applicant who is claiming the preference
    • Address of the applicant who is claiming the preference
    • Any supplemental information or documents that prove your eligibility. See the accepted documents checklist »
  3. MOHCD may give you the preference for the lottery while we look into your eligibility further.
    • If we determine you are not eligible for the preference after the lottery, we will move you to the general applicant pool.

Reference Manual

For detailed program information, download the Housing Preferences and Lottery Procedures Manual: PDF iconLottery Preferences Manual.pdf