Housing Projects Must Open to Middle Class - Excluding Poor? FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 17 Jul 1999 21:48:06 -0700 (PDT)


Will the change in federal guidelines to mandate inclusion of middle class
households in public housing help or hinder poor people?  How and why?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/1999/07/16/MN1034
05.DTL&type=printable
FWD  San Francisco Chronicle  Friday, July 16, 1999  Page A17

     HOUSING PROJECTS MUST OPEN TO MIDDLE CLASS

     NEW FEDERAL RULES COULD KEEP POOR OUT IN THE COLD

     Yumi Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer

Public housing will have fewer spaces for poor people and
open its doors to the middle class under new federal guidelines that
San Francisco and other Bay Area cities are racing to meet by this
fall.

The changes, part of President Clinton's welfare-to-work campaign,
will make it easier for people earning a steady income to live in
public housing. In San Francisco, for example, three-fifths of the
6,000 public housing units must be offered to tenants making 30 to 80
percent of the median income. For a family of four, that translates
to $19,500 to $52,000 a year.

That is sure to lead to major changes in the population of the
city's housing projects, where average household income now is only
$10,000 a year and the ceiling for a family of four is $46,000.

``This is a drastic concept because it is redefining the face of
public housing,'' said Duane Walker of the San Francisco Housing
Authority, which is meeting with tenants this week to talk about the
changes. ``No longer will public housing be the last resort, or for
the poorest of the poor.''

The income changes will apply only to new applicants for public
housing. But other changes likely to be put in place will affect the
more than 12,000 tenants of the Housing Authority, San Francisco's
biggest landlord.

One new rule will force many tenants to perform eight hours a month
of community service. People who are disabled, elderly or employed
would be exempt. Tenants who do not perform the service could be
evicted.

Walker said other changes were likely to meet with tenant approval.
Some residents will be able own dogs for the first time. Applicants
also will be able to choose which housing complex they want to live
in, although there is no guarantee they will get their first choice.

Tenants also will get to choose whether they want to pay 30 percent
of their income as rent or a flat figure based on property values.
Currently, most tenants must pay 30 percent of their income, and the
average monthly rent is about $225.

Although many details are still being worked out, some tenants are
upset over the proposals, particularly the community service
requirement.

``I would like to find out how we go about saying no to these
rules,'' Sunnydale resident Lerita Cavness said at a public meeting
yesterday. ``You are almost trying to create a slavery situation. Why
should it be mandatory for us to do community service?''

Cavness, a two-year resident of Sunnydale who waited three years to
get into public housing, also complained that the new federal rules
will make it harder for the most needy to get a roof over their
heads.

``This is a last resort for some people and they are making you jump
through twice as many hoops to even get to ground zero,'' she said.

Walker, the Housing Authority's administrative director, said San
Francisco is drafting guidelines that would continue to give the
homeless, domestic violence victims and other poor families some
preference in moving up the waiting list, which now totals about
15,000.

Housing Authority Chief Ronnie Davis acknowledged that the changes
will make ``it very difficult to serve the populations of those we
need to serve.''

But, he said, he has little choice in the matter.

The new ``income-mixing'' policy is part of the Quality Housing and
Work Responsibility Act passed by Congress and signed into law by
Clinton in 1998. Congress' intent, Davis said, was to say, ``We want
to have diversity (among tenants). . . . We want to have role models
with economic status.''

Although some agencies like the Contra Costa County Housing
Authority have already drafted guidelines, many cities like San
Francisco are still coming up with the framework needed to implement
the federal mandate. The deadline for drafting the framework is
October.

In Oakland, the city's Housing Authority is still in the ``planning
process,'' said agency spokeswoman Lily Toney.

``I don't think anyone has implemented the changes,'' she said.
``They're quite extensive.''

San Francisco residents will be able to get more information at a
hearing set for 10 a.m. today at Ping Yuen public housing. Hearings
also are set at 10 a.m. Monday and Tuesday at Rosa Parks. A final
meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Housing Authority
headquarters at 440 Turk St.

END FORWARD

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