This Chinatown Family Moved Out of Their Extremely Tiny Home

The Yu family finally had the chance to do something that almost every other family in America takes for granted: eat dinner at the same time. It’s something a family of six couldn’t do once in the nine years they lived in a small apartment in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Muyi Yu, 47, told the Standard in Cantonese from her new four-bedroom apartment near Nob Hill. “Since immigrating to the US in 2014, we have never been happier.”

Yu and her husband and their four children, ranging in age from 8 to 16, have been living in a single-room building, each unit is about 100 square feet, and residents on each floor must share one room. kitchen and bathroom.

Muyi Yu surrounds her son at the family’s SRO unit in Chinatown in February. | Mike Kuba/Standard

Yu’s youngest two siblings, 8-year-old twin boys, have lived in the SRO—until now.

“The most important thing is to provide a better learning environment for my children,” Yu said.

Housing vouchers issued after a long absence

To move, Yus received federal assistance: Section 8 housing vouchers, something many low-income families have been waiting for for years.

In February, The Standard published a multimedia report on Yu’s family, revealing hidden poverty in Chinatown.

Muyi Yu told The Standard that the new rent for their home is about $4,500 a month, much more than the $700 the couple paid for the SRO. But they only need to pay 30% of their income to cover rent, and the rest will be covered by vouchers.

The San Francisco Housing Authority, the agency that oversees the vouchers, said it has issued 887 tenant-based vouchers since 2022, meaning 887 low-income renters in San Francisco were able to move to better housing.because Shortage of funds And financial mismanagement, which basically left families like the Yu’s in need of affordable housing struggling.

After years of waiting, the Yus family received word from the housing authority in late February that their application had been approved. The couple signed the lease on April 20.

no more sleeping on the floor

Sitting at the dining table, Yu Muyi and her husband Jianhua couldn’t hide their joy at the huge improvement in living conditions. The new 1,000-square-foot home—nearly 10 times larger than their previous home—has everything they need to start a new life.

“It took us some time to find this place,” Yu said. “When we saw this, I thought, ‘I’ll take this!'”

Two-storey unit with a large sofa and a TV, as well as a fully equipped kitchen. The four-eyed stove allows Rang Yu to cook meals for the children at any time, a luxury she could only dream of before.

Yu proudly showed off her family’s new Nob Hill apartment. | Mike Kuba/Standard

Back at SRO, Yu said, the shared kitchen was always occupied by other tenants — so when her kids were hungry and wanted to eat, she wasn’t necessarily able to prepare meals right away.

The apartment is about four blocks from their former SRO room, on the border between Nob Hill and Chinatown. Yu works as a part-time receptionist in Chinatown, so her commute is short. Her husband takes care of the children full-time.

The Yu family’s 15- and 16-year-old daughters now have their own room. For now, the boys still sleep in a room with their parents. The remaining guest rooms are available for them to grow up to.

The setup was a far cry from before, when the twins sometimes had to sleep on the floor. After Yu and one of her daughters contracted the virus, they slept in the stairwell and self-quarantined to prevent the rest of the family from getting sick.

200 families left

According to local syndication organization SRO Families United Collaborative, About 200 families with children under 18 Stayed at the SRO Hotel in San Francisco. Most are concentrated in Chinatown.

But the number of households actually living in SROs — including those who live in non-SRO buildings but have SRO units — is believed to be much higher. It sounds like a bureaucratic sleight of hand, but some residential buildings in the city may have added units in basements or converted certain floors to SRO units to accommodate more people.

Juan Garcia, Senior Community Organizing Director, Chinatown Community Development Center Help SRO families apply for federal vouchers Or local rent subsidies.

Some 68 Chinatown families were the first to receive coupons this year. A dozen more SRO families across the city are entering project-based housing programs, referring to some of the new apartments set aside for people in this situation.

Yu’s husband carried a bag of the family’s belongings from their old SRO unit to their new apartment a few blocks away. | Mike Kuba/Standard

Garcia predicts that the Housing Authority will continue to issue new vouchers to SRO households, while San Francisco’s local rental subsidy program will also help these families afford larger homes. Ideally, by mid-2024, every one of the 200 families currently identified will be able to move.

For Yu, although she has found a new home, her battle for a new home is not over yet. She will still attend SRO family meetings and speak for others.

“I wish there were more opportunities for the children of other SRO families,” she said. “Boys, they need more space.”

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