At a dusty construction site in a quiet corner of San Francisco, local and national dignitaries assembled Friday to stump for President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.
Mayor London Breed and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were joined by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge for a tour of the under-construction Sunnydale HOPE SF mixed-income housing development. After their tour, all three touted the project as a model development that will be possible if Congress passes the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill.
“These are the kinds of things that should be in every neighborhood in America,” Fudge said in reference to the apartment building behind her. “Every person should live with dignity.”
Fudge also emphasized the urgency of the situation in Congress, with President Biden’s two agenda-defining pieces of legislation hanging in the balance. “We have so much work to do. But I say to you today, this is our last best chance to do it.”
The budget reconciliation bill could include as much as $327 billion for affordable housing development and upkeep, as well as rental vouchers for low-income households. Some housing advocates have argued the bill has the potential to end homelessness in America. However, with a handful of Senate Democrats wary of spending $3.5 trillion on the reconciliation bill, some of those housing investments could be on the chopping block.
Breed highlighted her own experience growing up in public housing, and her frustration with past efforts to rebuild beleaguered housing projects in other parts of The City, to illustrate why the HOPE SF program is an important model. “We committed to work with the residents of these communities to make sure that they were really a part of it, and that they were guaranteed that they would not be displaced from their home.”
Over the next several years, the dilapidated 775-unit Sunnydale housing projects will be rebuilt at a considerably higher density, with 775 replacement affordable housing units, approximately 200 additional affordable housing units, and 694 market rate units. So far, one building containing 55 homes has been completed, and another 167-unit building is nearing completion. Similar transformations are taking place at all of The City’s major public housing projects — in Hunters Point, Bayview and Potrero Hill — as part of the HOPE SF program.
Not everyone is happy with the changes, however. Outside of the event, a couple dozen protestors held signs and chanted, arguing that the public-private partnerships behind HOPE SF amount to the privatization of public housing. They also shared specific concerns about the ability of families with mixed immigration status to move into the new homes, and the length of the affordability covenants in the new development.
Fudge ended her remarks on a note of determination. “I will probably never have another job, Madam Speaker,” she said, gesturing at the octogenarian member of Congress. “This is my life’s work. And I want to know that when I leave, people will believe again that the government can work.”