How the Condo Lottery Works

The San Francisco condo conversion lottery is held annually, typically in late winter. In 2006, lottery tickets cost $150. The lottery itself grants conversion rights to up to 200 units. It is important to note that it is 200 UNITS, not buildings. In actuality the number of buildings that actually convert is approximately a fourth of that number. Tickets may be purchased without proof of qualification for conversion. However, if selected the owner will have to meet condo conversion requirements prior to converting. Lotto tickets are generally available for approx 60 days prior to the lottery with the deadline to purchase tickets ending about two weeks prior.

The new condo lottery system consists of two pools: Pool A and Pool B. Of the 200 units selected as lotto “winners”, the first 100 come from Pool A and the second 100 come from Pool B. Pool A consists of applicant buildings that have lost the lottery at least three times. These applicants are organized according to how many times they have lost the lottery.

For example, buildings that have lost eight times are called Class 8 buildings and grouped together. The same patterns follows for each class as seven time losers are called Class 7, six time losers Class 6, and so forth all the way down to three time losers. If the number of buildings in the most senior class (that is, the class with the most years of losing the lottery) is below 100, then all entrants in that class will automatically win. Any remaining slots up to 100 will then be filled by the second most senior class until all 100 slots are filled in Pool A.

Pool A Example

Assume there are:

  • 3 eight time condo lottery losers
  • 14 seven time losers
  • 26 six time losers
  • 38 five time losers
  • 50 four time losers
  • 63 three time losers

All of these 194 lotto losers would make up “Pool A”. The first 100 lotto slots would automatically go to the following entrants:

  • 3 eight time condo lottery losers
  • 14 seven time losers
  • 26 six time losers
  • 38 five time losers
  • 19 of the 50 four time losers (selected by drawing)

Any Pool A participants that do not win via Pool A automatically join the first, second, and third time lotto entrants in Pool B.

Pool B supplies the other 100 lotto winners. Each Pool B entrant receives lotto tickets equal to the number of years it has participated in the lottery.

For example a first time lottery entrant would get one Pool B ticket while a four time entrant would get four Pool B tickets. This system is designed to favor the people who have been most patient in waiting year after year to finally win the conversion lottery. There is a waiting list which losing entrants are sent in case winners fail to follow through with conversion or if they fail to qualify. Winners have until a summer deadline to submit a conversion application. Note that, to participate, Pool A owners must swear that no elderly (over 60 years of age and residing in the building for 10 years), disabled or catastrophically ill person has been evicted from the building since January 1, 1999.