Supervisor Breed wants to prioritize housing lottery for longtime residents

To move into a below­-market­-rate unit in San Francisco, one must win a lottery. But that lottery system is being criticized for failing longtime residents and exacerbating displacement of the black community.

But a proposal is wending its way through the legislative process to amend the lottery process to give priority to residents who live near the development of those below-­market-rate units.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee is expected to vote on the proposal after a lengthy hearing this week, when various changes were made.

Board President London Breed, who introduced the legislation, said it was a mistake The City had not already put a neighborhood preference provision in place when New York City has had such a policy since the late 1970s.

“We build and build and build,” Breed said. “And then when this housing is built, we are wondering, ‘Where are our people?’”

A recent lawsuit filed against the New York City policy, which earmarks 50 percent of the affordable units to people in the community in which they are built, alleges the provision is discriminatory.

The lawsuit is not deterring Breed, who has strong backing from the black community of the Fillmore and Western Addition who say it is necessary to keep long-term residents in the community.

Under the proposal, 40 percent of affordable housing units built would be prioritized in the lottery for those living near the development. As proposed, the benefit would extend to anyone living in the supervisorial district where the development is located.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who chairs the committee, is supporting it.

“It acknowledges in a very profound and public way that the affordable housing lottery system that we know it is not working,” Cohen said.

Supporters of the proposal say longtime residents are getting lost in the lottery system. A big part of the problem is simply the demand. The San Francisco Examiner reported on a lottery in September 2014, in which 2,145 people entered for 69 below-­market-­rate units.

Breed presented demographic data on who is winning housing lotteries for inclusionary units.

Between 2008 and 2014, affordable housing units in private development sold and rented includes: Whites, 264 units; Asian, Pacific Islander, 615 units, Hispanic/Latino, 145 units, African American, 62 units, “other” at 47, and 193 units of an unknown race.

“I am frustrated with this whole lottery process,” Breed said, referring to the data.

Some want The City to take a more aggressive approach. Luis Granados, executive director of the Mission Economic Development Agency, said, “I want to advocate for going much higher than the 40 percent. This is not a time to be moderate. This is a time to really address the needs of Latinos and African Americans.”

The lottery system is overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Housing. Other criticism about the process includes the lack of advertisement about the housing opportunities and the cumbersome applications process. The process is being improved, including shifting to an online application system.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said the legislation was a “good first step.”

“We need to be taking a broad look at how this lottery is conducted because that really decides who gets to live here in a lot of ways,” he said.

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