Supes shift housing preference toward neighborhood residents

Members of San Francisco’s African American community Tuesday¬†applauded the Board of Supervisors’ approval of an ordinance that alters the current below market rate lottery system and grants residents preference for placement in new, privately developed affordable housing units.

San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the city’s Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods, said there is an “alarming rate of displacement of African Americans” in the city and said that this ordinance could be life-changing for residents in her district who continue to face displacement while watching those who are not residents of the district win the lottery to live in new buildings in their neighborhood.

San Francisco’s African American population has declined from 13.4 percent in 1970 to 5.5 percent last year.

Following the board’s 9-2 approval of the ordinance, Dr. Amos Brown, a reverend and a board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, championed the ordinance, saying:

“… it was one step toward doing the right thing, but we still have miles to go.”

He said the city must deal with the other factors that are causing African Americans to leave San Francisco. He urged the city “to deal with the economic deprivation of blacks, the troubling, disgusting, academic performance of our children in school.” “This can be a form of reparations to black people in this city,” Brown said.

The ordinance sponsored by African American supervisors Cohen and London Breed, as well as Mayor Ed Lee, and supervisors Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen, was passed 9-2, with supervisors Eric Mar and Katy Tang voting against it.

Cohen said that as the city’s west side is developed residents there should have a chance at staying in their community.

Breed said this ordinance is innovative and progressive, but comes decades behind New York City, which had neighborhood preference policies dating back to the late 1970s.

She said the ordinance would help bolster the city’s declining African American population and ensure that as more market-rate and below market-rate housing is built, those who have grown up and raised families in the community will have access to affordable units.

She and other supervisors said the current lottery system for below market housing doesn’t meet the needs of the city or address the city’s declining African American population.

Breed said:

“I don’t know who’s winning the lottery but I know who’s losing.”

Mar said he didn’t feel the ordinance was multi-racial enough and expressed concern that the policy could lead to a re-segregation of housing in The City.

Numerous supervisors, including Tang, said they were concerned that reserving 40 percent of units for residents of the district, or within a half mile of the development, may be too high.

Other supervisors, including Norman Yee, expressed concern that the ordinance applies to each district and doesn’t go far enough to account for neighborhoods that straddle one or more districts.