Feds reject housing plan meant to help minorities stay in SF

By J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Olson Lee, head of the mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, said in a letter to HUD that the program’s goal is to “provide existing residents the choice to stay within their communities when market rents rise rapidly.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has rejected San Francisco’s neighborhood housing preference plan, which will have an immediate impact on the city’s attempt to use policy to stem the exodus of African Americans and members of other minority groups from neighborhoods that are rapidly gentrifying.

In a letter to Olson Lee, who heads up the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Gustavo Velasquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said San Francisco’s plan could “limit equal access to housing and perpetuate segregation” in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the neighborhood preference plan in December after months of debate on how to craft a law that would ensure new affordable housing units would be available to current neighborhood residents.

The plan seeks to set aside 40 percent of all new subsidized units for qualified people already living in the supervisorial district in which the development is being built or within a half mile of the project.

In particular, supporters of the plan hoped it would help African Americans improve their odds in lotteries used to fill most below-market units in market-rate developments and 100 percent subsidized projects. Just 4.7 percent of privately developed subsidized units created between 2008 and 2014 went to African Americans. The city’s African American population has plummeted from 13.7 percent of the city’s population in 1970 to 5.7 percent today.

The HUD decision will have an immediate impact on how residents are selected for the Willie B. Kennedy development at Turk and Webster streets in the Western Addition, a 98-unit senior housing development set to open this fall, because neighborhood residents will no longer receive better odds in the lottery(more)

The project, being built by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp., was financed with $15.2 million from HUD. The federal agency will also provide rent subsidies to residents, who will pay 30 percent of their income in rent, money that could be in jeopardy if the city were to defy the federal government and stick to the neighborhood preference plan.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed, a Western Addition native who grew up in public housing, called the HUD decision “devastating.” Breed said she has been working with older constituents who were optimistic that the neighborhood preference would give them a better chance to get homes in the new building…

Deirdre Hussey, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said he “urges HUD to reconsider their objections to San Francisco’s neighborhood preference program and allow us to prioritize keeping people in the neighborhoods where they have built a life and have strong community connections.”…

San Francisco officials are scheduled to talk to HUD officials later this week about the decision. In his letter, HUD’s Velasquez said the agency hopes “to be a partner in helping the city address these challenges.”

“The Department recognizes the significant affordable housing challenges San Francisco faces,” he said. “We are optimistic that anti-displacement strategies can be designed to be consistent with fair housing law and policy.”…(more)

Maybe all those rumors we have heard about HUD foreclosing on home owners is true. Time to get in touch with our Federal representatives and candidates. Time to change this law if it is being used to kick people out of their homes and neighborhoods.

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