Housing Justice Activists Blast Mayor’s Affordable Housing Goals

by Casey Mills on August 17, 2005

A group of senior, youth, family and housing advocates demanded more funding for affordable homes in San Francisco yesterday. Declaring themselves part of the nascent Housing Justice movement, activists blasted Mayor Gavin Newsom for a recent goal he set for new affordable units to be built in the city, a goal opponents argue sits far below the current need and fails miserably to meet the City’s goals outlined in its General Plan. Should the Mayor fail to raise his sights higher, they argued, our city faces a continued exodus of all but the rich and the subsidized poor.

Last week, Newsom announced his new ‘historic’ housing initiative, dubbed ‘Home 15/5’. He claimed the new plan would introduce 15,000 new affordable units to the city, units which would provide ‘housing opportunities*for everyone.’

Not so, says members of the Housing Justice movement. They point to the severe lack of new housing in the plan for very low-income individuals and families, as well as it failing by a large margin * over 7,000 units – to reach the goals for new affordable housing set by the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and State of California in the city’s General Plan.

“We call upon the Board of Supervisors to hold public hearings on how the Mayor can change official city housing goals by a mere press conference,” said April Veneracion of the South of Market Community Action Network, who said at least 12,000 new units of truly affordable housing are needed within the next two years to satisfy the needs of low-income San Franciscans. Newsom, Veneracion argues, has no plans to try and fulfill those needs.

Sarah Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee argued that a current crisis in Section 8 funding made the situation even more dire. The Bush Administration recently announced plans to sharply reduce its contribution towards affordable housing through Section 8, leading to dramatic rent increases for thousands of low-income people in the coming months. Shortt pointed out Newsom failed to substantially address the needs of very low-income families * those making less than $15,000 a year * in his new housing initiative, which could lead to severe consequences for the city’s poor.

“It’s time for San Francisco to face the music,” said Shortt. “To not specifically earmark funds for very low-income families is not only unconscionable * it’s a recipe for more homelessness, displacement, and poverty in this city.”

Advocates for children and families, including Coleman Executive Director N’Tanya Lee, echoed Shortt’s concerns. She said San Francisco stood at a crossroads, with one path leading towards more affordable housing, the other leading towards less. The latter, Lee argued, would be catastrophic for the city’s families.

“The rising cost of housing is forcing thousands [of low-income families] to flee their beloved city,” said Lee. She argued that failing to find places they could afford to live would lead to emptying schools, failed day care centers, and evidence of a place “not truly committed to the needs of all families.”

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