By the #30 Right Now Coalition
We are living in a tumultuous, historic, and devastating time with COVID-19 and the racial tensions we all are experiencing. However, we must not lose sight of the housing equity issues that plague the city. One specific example is the massive rent burdens imposed — not by private landlords — but the City and County of San Francisco on its most vulnerable tenants.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors allocated $1 million in the budget to help bring the rents of tenants in SROs under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing down to 30% of tenant incomes, which is the HUD standard, and the rate that supportive housing tenants in newer buildings pay. Almost 3,000 tenants in SROs are paying 50% or more of their income towards rent!
A year later, the mayor has refused to spend this money, despite pressure from the community and the funds already being approved. We need action now, we need truly affordable housing, and we need promises to be fulfilled.
SRO tenants are starving. While we support all tenants who are living in SROs, thousands of people of color (especially black), immigrants, families, seniors, veterans, and disabled people have been struggling for years to pay exorbitant rents for such small & sometimes toxic spaces. Many are getting by on a meager SSI, Social Security, or G.A. check; and, now with COVID-19, we are trying to shelter in place and stay safe while sharing bathrooms and common spaces.
Because of COVID’s impact on the state and city budget, we are bracing for cuts to our already insufficient checks and other vital social services. We know that $1 million is not enough to address the incredible rent burden on SRO tenants; according to HSH and the Budget and Legislative Analyst, we would need $7.5-8 million per year to get rents in these SROs down to 30% of income. Nonetheless, this is a necessary start and these already approved funds will serve as a pilot program for a permanent source of funding in the future! We were promised safe, decent, truly affordable, and supportive housing but have not received it.
On March 5, after the mayor and HSH failed to spend this money, a group of seniors, disabled people, and other members of the Senior and Disability SRO Workgroup, including Tenderloin People’s Congress, Tenderloin Chinese Rights Association, and many more, showed up at the Mayor’s Office. Sean Elsbernd, the mayor’s chief of staff, agreed then to get back to us by March 19 with a clear timeline for spending the funds. We heard nothing. While the pandemic may have postponed this slightly, it is unacceptable for the office of the elected mayor to fail completely to respond to constituents and to follow through on commitments. We demand an immediate response.
We demand that the $1 million be spent to lower rents for some SRO residents to 30% of their income. The mayor’s administration has a responsibility to follow through on their commitments and to execute the signed budget. We also need legislation that requires all current and future buildings under the Department of Homelessness to have rents at no more than 30% of income. Although it will cost an extra $8 million in these troubled times, certainly, we can divest from policing and jails, as well as seek new revenue sources, to further budget justice.
Jessica Lehman and Freddy Martin, Senior and Disability Action
Lorenzo Listana and Dori Taporco, SoMa Neighborhood Resident Council
Jordan Davis, Reggie Meadows, Liza Murawski, Rebecca Browning, Tenderloin People’s Congress, AHEAd Committee
SF Democratic Socialists Of America, Homelessness Working Group
Tenderloin Chinese Rights Association
Community United Against Violence
Rad Mission Neighbors
SF Green Party
Elizabeth Kita, PhD, LCSW, Private Practice
Carolina Morales, Anti-Violence Educator, MSW Candidate
Gilbert Gammad, Abby Larson, Sokunthea Chhun, Michelle Chen, and Ashley Reyes, MSW candidates
Anakh Sul Rama, Community Organizer
Emelita Torio, LEAd Program
Ann Guevarra, TFCA
Natividad Galinato and Cheryl Shanks, SF POWER
Stephanie Menchavez, Mint Mall Resident Assembly
Anne Bluenthal – Director Skywatchers/ABD Productions
Gregory Ledbetter Chair Black and Brown Just Policy
David Elliot Lewis, Ph.D.
David Joseph Carpenter
Heather McDonnell Haney
Jaime Manuel Viloria