Mayor Cuts New Housing Subsidies Putting Hundreds at Risk

Mayor Lee recently cut funding for two new Board-funded housing subsidies, affecting 175 households across the city. The funding would have provided critical rental assistance for seniors, families, and people with disabilities.

These funds were backed by the Board of Supervisors and totaled $2.5 million—125 subsidies worth $1.5 million for seniors and the disabled, and another 50 subsidies worth $1 million for families with children.

“We have to invest the resources to keep people in San Francisco,” says Brian Basinger, Director of the AIDS Housing Alliance and Q Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent homelessness for the LGBTQ and HIV communities. “The repercussions of displacement are greater.”

The two housing subsidies were part of several homeless initiatives the Mayor had funded in the summer of 2016. The plan was to support the initiatives with anticipated revenue from Proposition K, a local sales tax increase on the November 2016 ballot, which would have provided $50 million for homeless services. When Proposition K did not pass, the Mayor defunded the housing assistance programs citing budget cutbacks.

Efforts are already underway to persuade the Board to restore funding. “It is cheaper to keep people in the homes they already have than to allow them to get evicted,” says Basinger. “The cost of displacement is just too high.”

The budget cuts will affect a large majority of San Francisco’s homeless population. According to the Coalition on Homelessness, which publishes the Street Sheet, at least 4,400 homeless San Franciscans have a disabling health condition. Over 3,300 are homeless children living in in-tact families, and at least 1,700 are older adults living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the Human Services Agency Planning Division states that at least 4,600 homeless seniors identify as LGBT and need access to permanent rental assistance to remain in their homes.

“We need to make sure that we are increasing investments across the board into all kinds of communities for whom displacement puts them at greater risk,” Basinger says. “If [people] get displaced from San Francisco, they wind up in less tolerant communities.” Often, these people are turned away for critical health services they need.

Basinger urges concerned citizens to call their Board representatives. “Right now, the focus is on the Board of Supervisors to restore the funding,” he says. “We’re asking residents to contact their Supervisor and ask for their support to replace the funding for these 175 subsidies.”

“We would like to have unanimous support from the Board because we want to make sure that the Mayor spends the money. A broad base of support for this effort will influence his approach.”

So far, the community has support from Sandra Lee Fewer from District 1, Aaron Peskin from District 3, Jane Kim from District 6, Norman Yee from District 7, Hillary Ronen from District 9 and Ahsha Safai from District 11.

Community members are in discussions with the remaining six Supervisors. ≠

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.