Housing Authority looks to 311 to flush out backlog

Public-housing tenants with mold-ravaged walls, broken locks and leaky roofs are facing a backlog of 3,200 work orders as all maintenance requests run through a single person before an order is issued.

Nearly 32,000 individuals live in the 6,200 units managed by the San Francisco Housing Authority, and with aging and rundown buildings, the maintenance requests became too numerous to do in a day’s work, said interim Housing Authority Director Mirian Saez, noting that the backlog used to be as high as 8,000 work orders.

Maintenance at Housing Authority sites is a long-standing issue with families living in apartments rife with mold, chipping paint, no heat and leaking pipes.

Some residents face eviction because they have simply stopped paying rent as a form of protest.

In an effort to rebuild the community’s trust in the maintenance system, the agency will switch from its current “broken” maintenance request system to using the 311 Customer Service Center to provide more accountability to residents, Saez said.

The 311 Call Center, launched in March 2007, is a 24-hour service delivered in 176 languages, according to the staff report. Currently, the single maintenance manager works Monday through Friday with an answering service taking after-hours calls, according to the report.

The 311 Call Center will begin taking maintenance calls from public housing tenants April 21, and Saez said she expected the number of work orders to jump because some residents just stopped making requests because they felt they would not be heard with the previous system.

Callers will be given a tracking number to keep tabs on work orders and they will receive a time estimate. Sara Shortt, director of the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee, a tenants advocacy group, called the switch “a step in the right direction” but cautioned that requesting the work was just half of the battle.

“There’s a whole other piece of it, which is getting the work order out there and getting the maintenance to do the work,” Shortt said.

Pauline, a disabled woman in her forties, has lived in Alice Griffith for two years and said that after she moved in her unit flooded and her place now has mold and heating problems, not to mention the sewage flowing in the area behind her house. She questioned whether switching to 311 would lead to more work being done.

“It will get more work orders there, but it doesn’t make any of the work done,” she said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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