A cooperative low-rise, affordable family housing development

St. Francis Square in San Francisco emphasizes community building in an affordable, cooperatively owned, low-rise family housing complex in the inner city. Its award-winning design includes 299 units clustered in 12 three-story walk-up buildings arranged around three shared courtyards, a playground, and the local YMCA. In contrast to high rise developments geared toward the more affluent, St. Francis Square was designed to attract and retain low-income families and to encourage resident interaction.

St. Francis Square is a community not because its inhabitants live in close proximity, but because they share in the responsibility and engagement of their complex with their fellow residents.

1987 Selection Committee

Developed in 1963 by the International Longshoremen, Warehouse’s Union, and the Pacific Maritime Association, the complex was the first inter-racial housing cooperative on the West Coast. By closing off streets that used to run through the area, the project creates a strong sense of community and better provides for the needs of families with children. The cooperative form of tenancy makes residents stakeholders with a sense of political and financial power despite their modest means and invites tenant leadership and responsibility. St. Francis Square demonstrates that quality low-rise affordable housing, when well designed, can function in densely populated urban areas, facilitate community living, and provide a model for inner-city development.