How the affordable housing lottery works

A lottery determines your place in line to get housing. Find out how it works.


The lottery determines who gets to apply for housing first. 

When you apply to a listing on DAHLIA San Francisco Housing Portal you are actually entering a lottery to determine your place in line to apply for open units in an apartment building.

All applicants are entered into a lottery. Next, the results are put in order based on lottery preference programs people qualify for.

After the lottery, a more detailed application and review process starts. A representative from the building contacts applicants about renting or buying in order of the lottery results. 

Learn more about what to expect:

How the lottery works

1. Apply to a listing, get a lottery number

After you apply to a housing listing on DAHLIA, you get a unique lottery number. 

2. Random lottery ranking

We run a lottery using Everyone gets a unique rank. This rank determines your place in line.

Example: If 3,000 people applied, the lottery gives each person a rank between 1 and 3,000. 

3. Final results arranged by priority 

Next, a computer program checks to see who qualifies for lottery preferences. If you qualify for any preferences, you move up in line.

If you do not qualify for any preferences, you will be part of the General Lottery category. The General Lottery ranks last in line.

Your place in line within any category is based on your ranking from the lottery.

Note: For most listings, several lottery preferences may be available. Each preference has a different level of priority. This priority may vary depending on the housing opportunity. Check the listing where you applied on DAHLIA to find out the order of preferences for that listing.  

4. Find out your ranking

Usually, you can check the results on DAHLIA right after the lottery.

5. Applicants are contacted about renting or buying in order 

Using the final lottery results, a representative from the building contacts applicants. They reach out in order until all units are filled. 

Last updated April 26, 2024