Affordable housing lottery being tweaked to benefit long-time residents

San Francisco is on the verge of prioritizing residents in The City’s affordable housing lottery by improving their chances of winning if they live near the development.

Private developers are required to build or fund below-market-rate units. In order for anyone to move in, they must win a lottery overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

As rents and evictions have soared and as development is booming, the lottery system has come under increased scrutiny. Thousands have shown up for lotteries even when only a few dozen units were available.

The lottery has faced criticism for failing to advertise opportunities, using a cumbersome application process and drawing from a pool of applicants who live outside of The City or community.

But the “neighborhood preference” proposal unanimously approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee would prioritize 40 percent of the total units in the lottery for those who live within the supervisor district where the development occurred.

The proposal was introduced by board President London Breed based on a model New York City has used since the 1970s.

Breed lamented how affordable housing development in the Western Addition, a neighborhood she represents, isn’t benefiting the black residents.

“We are lying to them when we say that they’ll have an [affordable housing] opportunity,” Breed said. “They don’t get an opportunity and that is what the problem is.”

The proposal drew strong support from black community members like Rev. Amos Brown and Rev. Arnold Townsend. Data showed blacks received only 63 affordable housing units in private development during the past seven years, while whites received 264 units and Asians
and Pacific Islanders received 615 units.

There was a range of opposition. Some wanted the percentage of units to exceed 40 percent. Others wanted it to apply to specific neighborhoods — not an entire supervisor district.

Notably nonprofit tenant groups in Chinatown called for a postponement.

“A preference that is based only on which district people live will be unfair to our community,” said Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Community Tenants Association, which is affiliated with the Chinatown Community Development Center.

Most of the development is occurring in districts five, six, eight and 10.

If approved by the board next week, The City would need special permission from the state and federal governments to use the preference in projects utilizing their funding.

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