Thousands fear eviction from public housing in San Francisco
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.