[Hpn] inyaface pt 5 pt 2

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sun, 05 Nov 2000 15:36:04 -0700

Where are poor people supposed to go in San Francisco?

On Wednesday, September 27, a righteous assortment of immigrants, public
housing tenants, tenant organizers, housing providers, immigrant/welfare
rights activists, service providers and others gathered on the steps of City
Hall to serve notice that we will not allow the racist, economic cleansing
policies dictated by Washington to destroy our communities here in San
    It¹s not as if gentrification, greedy landlords, dot.coms, no vacancies
and high rents aren¹t enough. But then, on top of it all we have the Quality
Housing Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA) ‹  which basically does two things:
shuts undocumented families out of Section 8 housing and other public
housing; and converts public housing, traditionally for the poor, into
housing for the middle class. Could it be a coincidence that this is shortly
after HOPE VI destroyed the old projects to make way for renovated new ones
‹ which are now almost inaccessible for the old tenants who were promised
they would get them back?

    But we digress.

    How does it do this? By forcing SFHA to verify immigrant¹s ³status²
(documented or undocumented) with the INS, and by forcing 60% of units as
they become available to be reserved for families making between 30% and 80%
of the median income. Thatís pretty high here in San Francisco, and 70% of
current residents currently make less than 30% of median income. So what
that basically means is that if you have been waiting and make less than 30%
of the median, you are not going to get housing.
    So where are poor people supposed to go in San Francisco?
    We are not taking any of this lying down.
    San Francisco is a ³city of refuge² for immigrants and and was the
birthplace of the ³Universal Declaration of Human Rights,² which recognizes
housing as a human right. On this basis, we are now demanding four action
steps which would at least slow down the damage of this law:
1) no reporting to the INS, 2) keeping everyone on the waiting list for
housing, 3) create a fund to replace the lost subsidies of ³mixed status²
families, 4) create a fund for displaced families.
    So we gathered on the steps of City Hall, over one hundred strong,
representing Homeless Prenatal Program, the Day Laborer Program, SF Bayview
Reporter, La Raza Centro Legal, Mission Agenda, Coalition on Homelessness,
POWER, Family Rights and Dignity, Hogares Sin Barreras, Housing Rights
Committee, St. Peter¹s Housing Committee, Mission Anti-Displacement
Coalition, and many, many more, to declare in song, poetry and words of
resistance that we will not disappear without a fight!
    We then went inside, and we made the walls of City Hall shake with
singing and chanting as we charged up the steps into the rotunda. The next
thing we knew, we were surrounded by cops. This was not cool, especially
since we had many courageous undocumented families and children with us who
had come out to assert their rights. It is clear that our growing power,
solidarity and strong spirit is scary for those who thought they could roll
right over us. 
    The Finance Committee was in session, and they knew we were there, even
from outside the hearing room! We were scheduled last on the agenda (like,
what else is new?), but given our strong presence, they knew we wouldn¹t
wait forever to have our say. Meanwhile, we took over the main Board of
Supervisors chambers and conducted a teach-in about what we are experiencing
and how we can fight back. The passion and life experiences that were
recounted, in Spanish and English, moved everyone to stand up and cheer with
renewed vigor and determination.
    The Finance Committee re-arranged its schedule to accommodate us, and in
we went. Renee Saucedo summarized our demands, and then we screened a
videotape, produced by Hogares Sin Barreras and Whispered Media, which
allowed immigrants too frightened of retaliation to tell their stories.
    As it turned out, they had good reason to be afraid: the committee room
was filled with police who guarded the door and lined the room. After
hundreds of hearings, many of them raucous, I have never seen such a clear
attempt at intimidation as the police showed that day.
    But no one left, because they wanted to have their say. Still, it makes
you wonder what is going on in our ³democracy² if the mere attempt to
participate in a public hearing that will massively change housing policy in
the city is met with that kind of police oppresion?
    The SF Housing Authority, which had been requested to appear and answer
questions at the hearing, didn¹t show up. This is simply indicative of the
arrogant, shameful and frankly suspect maner in which the Housing Authority
conducts its business.
    Although not everyone was allowed to speak, enough speakers were allowed
to explain what this law would do that our resolution gained Supervisor
Yee¹s support at the end of the hearing, in addition to Supervisor Ammiano¹s
(Supervisor Bierman was not present).

    This is only the beginning.

    The next step will be a vote on the bill at the full board, which we all
know will be a hard sell given the voting history of the present board. So
three times as many people need to show up for next time.
    All are invited to planning meetings for next steps in the fight,
Translation (into Spanish) provided.
    Be there 

Rebecca Vilkomerson

    The Quality Housing Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA) was passed by
Congress in 1998. It was designed in conjunction with welfare ìreform.
    This is a federal (nationwide) law, which means that the city MUST
comply with the law or with lose all of its money for housing (many millions
of dollars). 
    This law applies to public housing projects and Section 8 housing.

Information for Immigrants
    Before QHWRA was passed, San Francisco had the option of never asking
immigrants about their status as citizens/eligible immigrants (with
papers)/ineligible immigrants (undocumented), and never did. Now the city no
longer has that option.
    Starting NOW, as you come up for re-certification, the Housing Authority
will ask you to certify your immigrant status. They will contact the INS to
confirm that you are eligible. They will not report to the INS (supposedly)
if you are ineligible.
    If your entire family is ineligible, you will have up to 18 months with
your full subsidy before you lose it. You can stay in the housing after that
time but you will have to pay the full fair market rate rent (70% more than
you pay right now). If you canít pay it, you will eventually be evicted.
    If your family has some documented members and some undocumented, you
will get a portion of your subsidy. For example: in a family of four with
two undocumented parents and two documented kids, you will get 50% of your
former subsidy and will have to pay the rest. If you canít pay it, you will
eventually be evicted.
    If you are on the waiting list for housing and are undocumented, you
will lose your place on the list.
    If your family all has papers, see the next section for other ways QHWRA
will affect you. 

Information for Residents and People
on the Waiting List
    QHWRA also requires that the Housing Authority create ³mixed income²
developments. The Housing Authority is now required to reserve only 40% of
its units as they open for people making less than 30% of the local median
income, the rest (60%) are reserved for people making between 30 and 80% of
median income. See table below to see where your family falls (the figures
are from 1999 and may be slightly different for 2000 and 2001).

Family of 1:    30%=15,200    80%=38,100
Family of 2:    30%=17,400    80%=43,500
Family of 3:    30%=19,550    80%=48,950
Family of 4:    30%=21,700    80%=54,400
Family of 5:    30%=23,450    80%=58,750
Family of 6:    30%=25,200    80%=63,100
Family of 7:    30%=26,950    80%=67,450
Family of 8:    30%=28,650    80%=71,800

    So, if your family makes less than the number in the first column, you
will have to fit in the 40% category of people making less than 30% of the
median. If your family income falls between the numbers in the two columns,
you will be eligible for the 60% of units reserved for those with higher
    As a comparison, note that on minimum wage one person makes less than
$15,000 per year. 
    But as you can see, most people in public housing make less than the 30%
of median income. Because within 5 years the Housing Authority is required
to make the mix 40/60, just about all of the openings that come up will be
for those of higher incomes. Even if you¹ve been waiting for ten years, or
are homeless, or lived in one of the projects that got torn down, or are a
victim of domestic violence, you still will be out of luck if you fall in
the lower income category.
    The effect of this portion of the law will be that poorer people will
have less public housing available to them. In combination with higher
rents, gentrification, and low vacancy rates, the effect will be more and
more people won¹t have housing in San Francisco.