Residents displaced decades ago may receive reprieve

In an effort to make good on a city promise to thousands displaced by redevelopment projects decades ago, Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide those ousted with a first crack at affordable-housing units built citywide.

In the 1960s and ’70s, redevelopment projects led by the Redevelopment Agency displaced thousands in Hunters Point and the Western Addition, tearing apart the predominantly black communities.

State law required that those displaced be given a so-called certificate of preference, which promises they would be first to rent or purchase housing in redevelopment projects.

City officials say the agency’s certificate program was flawed, losing track of certificate holders and failing to inform those entitled to them.

Now, The City is increasing efforts to track people with certificates and those who should have them and allow them to apply for affordable housing outside redevelopment areas.

Last year, attention was called to the problem when Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Western Addition, held a hearing and called on the agency to ramp up its efforts.

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell said The City added a staffer whose responsibility it is to track down certificate holders and those entitled to them.

Newsom’s legislation would also offer 30 percent of the affordable-housing units built under The City’s inclusionary housing ordinance be offered in a Mayor’s Office of Housing lottery.

Blackwell said nearly one-half of the 4,700 certificates in the Western Addition and only 23 percent of the 1,100 in Hunters Point were used. Blackwell did not know how many people are entitled to a certificate.

The agency will decide whether to allow the grandchildren of the head of household displaced use the certificate, Blackwell said.

Matt Franklin, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, said the bill is expected to result in 100 below-market-rate units being offered annually to certificate holders.

Certificates are set to expire in 2011, but the agency will extend that deadline by at least 10 years, Blackwell said.

The legislation requires approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi said that he was supportive of the effort, but also added “we need a more rigorous policy.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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