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Jul. 19 2010 - 1:26 pm | 298 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Thousands fear eviction from public housing in San Francisco

Photo by Xhanatos on Flickr

Read the headlines on San Francisco’s Housing Authority, and you may feel like you’ve stumbled upon a history book about Chicago’s public housing.

Gross mismanagement. Rents not collected. Multi-million dollar deficit. Poor upkeep. Serious lawsuits because of negligence. A real mess.

Now, San Francisco is looking to remedy two of those problems - the deficit and the rent collection in one fell swoop. They’ve issued thousands of eviction notices for families living there, letting them know they’ve got to pay up or get out.

The problem is, many residents can’t trust what they’re told they owe. Record keeping has been so bad that many who have paid every month have also gotten eviction notices, or people are being asked to pay much larger sums than they think they owe.

Take Anna Stephens, whose story was told in the San Francisco Chronicle. A single mom with two kids who works as an administrative assistant, she’s paid her rent on time for years. But she got a bill in the mail saying she owes the housing authority $9,750 in back rent. It’s not the first time either. A few years ago, they brought another suit against her after she complained about the security in her building, saying she owed nearly $2,000 in back rent. The suit was later dropped.

Other tenants who are facing hard times say their rent hasn’t been adjusted to their much lower income levels. Others still say paying your rent has never been a big deal in San Francisco’s public housing, so it’s going to be hard to change that idea in tenants minds.

San Francisco is struggling to improve under demands from HUD, not unlike Chicago in the mid-1990s. After years of mismanagement, huge deficits and a large stock of derelict housing, HUD took over CHA in 1996 in an effort to get it back on the right path. Soon after, the Plan for Transformation was gotten underway, knocking down most of the city’s public housing units to make way for mixed-income communities and relocating thousands of families.

In San Francisco, the Housing Authority says it’s not going to throw people out on their ear.

“We realize these are tough economic times,” said Henry Alvarez, the director of SFHA, to the Chronicle. “There is no reason to throw people out on the streets.”

But that’s a difficult message to get through when you send an eviction notice.


Comments

2 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 3 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    Typical government operation…..this is exactly how Obamacare will work

  2. collapse expand

    Hello Megan,

    I’m a regular reader of your writing – and have been since I discovered you during my research into the Plan for Transformation. I’m similarly passionate about issues of urban poverty and inequality – and about communicating these issues to the wider world in accessible ways.

    I’ve launched a project I’m working on on Kickstarter and thought you might be interested in taking a look – and hopefully in spreading the word.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756890937/peoples-a-documentary-about-communities-unmade-on

    Thanks for reading and let me know what you think,

    Ramona

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist living in Chicago writing about poverty and public housing. I don't come from the streets - I grew up on a farm. But I'm passionate about urban issues and getting to know people who are completely different from me. I'm quirky, funny and friendly.

    I have this idea about journalism - that it should be approachable and less "newsy." I want my stories to make you laugh, cry and draw you in to neighborhoods and situations you don't deal with every day. I hate the broadcaster voice. I hate TV news. I hate the inverted pyramid. I love surprise. I love humor. I love people and telling their stories.

    In addition to being a journalist, I also teach dance for the Chicago Public Schools. I don't just do it for the money. I love children and love arts education. I'm also on the board of a new nonprofit dedicated to helping the underserved find jobs called Employing Hope. I write fiction, keep house, and am generally a renaissance woman.

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