SAN FRANCISCO—Federal housing authorities recently made a decision to block a San Francisco law that sets aside spaces in affordable housing projects for neighborhood residents. According to city officials and residents, this pushes back efforts trying to prevent the displacement of low-income and minority residents.
Gustavo Velasquez, the assistant Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity wrote in a letter to Olson Lee, who is in charge of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development that San Francisco’s plan could “limit equal access to housing and perpetuate segregation” in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
The Board of Supervisors approved the new ordinance back in December 2015, which allotted 40 percent of units in new affordable housing projects for residents already living in the supervisorial district where they are being built. Plan supporters hoped that African Americans would benefit from and have their odds in lotteries improved so they could fill most below market units in market-rate developments and 100 percent subsidized projects.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 4.7 percent of privately developed subsidized units created between 2008 and 2014 went to African Americans. Also the population of African Americans in the city went down from 13.7 percent in the 1970s, to now 5.7 percent today.
Some supervisors and community residents are against the legislation who believe that it would bring forth segregation and not benefit residents in neighborhoods such as the Sunset District where there is little affordable housing. The Willie B. Kennedy development which is at Turk and Webster streets will be affected by HUD’s decision. Neighborhood residents will no long have increase odds in the lottery.
Board President London Breed, co-author of the legislation with Supervisor Malia Cohen. “I want to be crystal clear: non-HUD-funded projects will still use neighborhood preferences in San Francisco,” said Breed said in a statement on Thursday, August 18.
“And we as a community are going to roll up our sleeves and continue pushing for neighborhood preferences for all affordable housing developments in San Francisco.”
“The soul of San Francisco’s neighborhoods are on the line and we must to do everything we can to ensure local residents can remain in San Francisco and the communities they live and grew up in,” said Cohen.
SF Chronicle spoke to the Rev. Amos Brown, a minister at the Third Baptist Church and president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, who called the HUD ruling an “egregious injustice against African Americans in this city.”