SF Will Favor Local Residents in Affordable Housing Lottery

Photo by Tony Perrie

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 today to favor local residents in affordable housing lotteries for the first time in city history. The new legislation would make it easier for residents of districts in which affordable housing projects are built to live in those projects.

Currently, residents hoping to live in affordable housing projects administered by the city must win a lottery. Preference already exists for residents displaced by redevelopment in the 1970s and those evicted under the Ellis Act, but today’s legislation creates a third category for those those who live near the housing project to which they are applying.

Effective in early 2016, 40 percent of any new affordable housing stock built will be distributed to residents of that neighborhood to fight displacement.

But the legislation has been fraught with tension, particularly between ethnic groups in the city. Black community leaders testified last week that neighborhood preference is a policy long overdue and that it would have helped keep black communities intact for the past fifty years.

“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, at a committee meeting last week.

San Francisco’s black population has declined from 13.4 percent in 1970 to 5.8 percent last year. Black people won less than 1 percent of affordable housing units from 2008 to 2014, though they won a whooping 23.2 percent of city-owned public housing in the same period.

Local preference, supporters argued, would help areas like the Bayview-Hunter’s Point take advantage of dozens of units coming to the neighborhood in the next few years.

Community leaders in the Mission and Chinatown, however, rallied against the “one-size fits all” approach. They would have preferred that more than 40 percent of the units be reserved for locals and wanted the city to use community borders rather than political boundaries.

City officials testified that the legislation was as generous as it legally could be, and even supervisors who wanted stronger guarantees voted for the measure.

“We pushed for as high a preference as we could legally go based on the advice of counsel,” wrote Supervisor David Campos, saying local preference is “just one tool” for helping low-income communities. “Unless we build more affordable housing and provide a way for people to get into the housing, we aren’t truly solving our housing crisis.”

Latinos have fared badly in affordable housing. They represent 15.3 percent of the city’s population but won just 11 percent of affordable units and 5.4 percent of city-owned public housing from 2008 to 2014.

Still, the legislation is the first in the city’s history to prefer local residents for a percentage of affordable housing stock. The legislation now needs the support of the mayor, who was a sponsor of the original legislation, and will go into effect 30 days after receiving his signature.

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