The three-member Land Use Committee voted unanimously yesterday to recommend neighborhood preference for affordable housing. The policy would ensure that 40 percent of new affordable housing in a supervisorial district be reserved for former residents of that district.
“This is incredibly bold and important legislation for the residents of San Francisco,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, calling particular attention to the decade-long displacement of the black population from the city. “The consequences of [the current] system have been devastating to communities, particularly the African-American community, who have been leaving the city at an incredibly alarming rate.”
The legislation, which was recommended by the Planning Commission last month, creates a local preference for residents seeking entry into affordable housing units. Under the new legislation, 40 percent of such units would be reserved for those living within the supervisorial district of the project they are applying for, plus a half-mile buffer around a particular project.
That’s a change from an earlier version that reserved just 25 percent of units for neighborhood preference. The increase has some questioning if it could go even higher.
The city kept the percentage low to avoid running afoul of fair housing laws, federal guidelines that guard against discrimination in housing assignments. They worried that, in a segregated city like San Francisco, drawing too high a percentage of residents from a small geographic area could end up favoring particular minorities.
“What is the logic?” said Luis Granados, the executive director of the Mission Economic Development Agency at a small press event before the meeting. “At 40 percent does it still meet fair housing regulations? Or is it 65 percent or is it 85 percent? You basically wonder about the logic behind this proposal.”
Granados and others are pushing for higher percentages of neighborhood preference and a less artificial definition of neighborhood, noting that supervisorial districts are political lines that often encompass many communities.
But the city says 40 percent at the district level is the best option.
“We have done analysis of San Francisco specific data, and we are comfortable that 40 percent at the supervisorial district level maintains a balance between access and neighborhood preference,” said Sophie Hayward, the director of policy and legislative affairs at the Mayor’s Office of Housing.
The model was New York, which has had a 50 percent local preference threshold since the 1970s. But after running an analysis on San Francisco, Hayward said that given San Francisco’s segregated neighborhoods, a 50 percent local preference would run the risk of favoring particular minorities for housing.
This brought the city down to 25 percent, but when supervisors raised the bar to 40 percent at a committee meeting last week, Hayward said it barely passed muster.
“The safest in terms of analysis is still 25 percent,” Hayward said. “That said, when the supervisors ran up to 40 percent, we ran the analysis again and it is fairly safe across all districts.”
Still, some community groups say the process has been flawed.
“This proposal is not a neighborhood preference, this proposal is a political district preference. It will undermine the very goal of trying to keep black and brown folks in San Francisco,” said Malcolm Yeung, a deputy director with Chinatown Community Development Center, at Monday’s meeting. “We urge the Board to slow this down and to take a look at it and figure out how to actually craft a neighborhood preference.”
On the other side, many black community leaders from the Bayview-Hunters Point praised the measure and said it was past time the city enacted a local preference for housing.
“It’s time this city do the right thing by black people who were targeted by redevelopment, who have been victims of injustice because of the lottery system,” said Amos Brown, a pastor and board member of the San Francisco National Association of the Advancement of Colored People.
“It’s a shame before God that since 1970, we have lost 60,000 African-Americans from this city,” he said. “Now’s the time. As Nike said, ‘Just do it’ — and give us our 40 percent.”
The measure will go to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote on November 17 and will likely be voted on again December 3. If it passes, Hayward said it would go into effect in early 2016.