Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner File photoThe Huntersview Public Housing Project

San Francisco Housing Authority set to receive break on old debt

Unpaid city bills from the Housing Authority dating to the early 1990s are set to be written off this week.

The federally funded, locally overseen Housing Authority owns 404 buildings throughout San Francisco but does not pay city property taxes.

Instead, the public housing provider is supposed to pay The City 10 percent of what it collects in rent from its tenants, minus utility costs. But that’s something it hasn’t done since the 1980s.

Historically, The City has waived these fees, but there are some $12 million in unpaid — and not waived — fees dating to the 1990s, according to records.

During Willie Brown’s time as mayor from 1996 to 2004, the Housing Authority asked The City to waive fees through 1997, but no action was taken.

Following that, neither The City nor the Housing Authority made a move on the fees one way or the other.

At the Housing Authority’s request, the Board of Supervisors is set to waive the owed fees at its meeting Tuesday.

Housing authorities throughout the country are slow to make these payments. Chicago’s agency, for example, made its first payment in 50 years in 2012.

The inability to collect rent from its tenants has been an ongoing issue at the Housing Authority, which has had a tumultuous few years.

After the public housing provider landed on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s list of the worst housing authorities in the country, Mayor Ed Lee cleaned house. The board of commissioners was replaced by city employees and longtime agency employee Barbara Smith took over for Director Henry Alvarez.

About 37.5 percent of the Housing Authority’s 5,007 tenants are delinquent on their rent at any one time, an audit of the agency found. That amounts to annual losses in excess of $2.5 million.

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