Public housing tenants rally against nationwide privatization of public housing and HOPE SF scheme in San Francisco

Rent in San Francisco is the highest in the world, so most Black San Franciscans live in public housing, where rent is only 30 percent of family income, even if that income is only welfare or disability. To push those Black people out of San Francisco, then Mayor Gavin Newsom invented Hope SF to privatize public housing and transform it from a refuge for the poorest of the poor to “mixed income” neighborhoods, a process now complete at all the City’s “projects” except Sunnydale and Potrero. This economic sea-change for low-income people is largely unknown except to its victims. And they are afraid to complain, seeing no option but living on the street or leaving San Francisco. – Photo: Jennifer Yin

by the United Front Against Displacement

On June 12, 2021, Sunnydale and Potrero Hill residents came together in front of San Francisco City Hall to protest the HOPE SF privatization of their homes, which is the last public housing in the city, as well as the intentional neglect and discrimination by the San Francisco and Oakland Housing Authorities.

Residents spoke out about how HOPE SF, the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA), developers Mercy Housing and Related California at Sunnydale, and BRIDGE Housing and nonprofit Shanti Project at Potrero Hill are displacing people from their homes to demolish them and pave the way for the developers to build on the land. Many also spoke about the manipulation and lies they have faced from SFHA, HOPE SF and the developers.

A national movement against privatization, support from New York: “I’m with you right here in New York, we got y’all, we got y’all’s back!”

Residents described the dangerous conditions that SFHA has made them live in to justify privatization and how private management companies don’t improve these conditions but instead continue to neglect developments and make residents more vulnerable to displacement and rent hikes. 

Maria, a Hope SF resident, exposes the HUD rehabilitation scam. First, the housing is severely neglected by the local Housing Authority until most of the apartments become unlivable and are boarded up. Then HUD or the Housing Authority calls in a developer to assess the cost of rehabilitation. The developer grossly exaggerates the cost, giving authorities an excuse to privatize the housing and saddle it with a huge mortgage that requires higher rents. In this way, San Francisco, once proud to provide more public housing than any other U.S. city and proud of its many other low-income housing options like resident-owned co-ops, has destroyed it all, forcing the poor who refuse to leave onto the streets. – Photo: Jennifer Yin

People emphasized the need not just to preserve public housing but to improve it and spoke out against Housing Authorities discriminating against immigrants by charging families more for rent if they are “mixed status.”

This action was part of a national week of protests with residents rallying in New York City and Boston against the privatization of public housing and against big banks like Bank of America profiting from privatization and gentrifying neighborhoods. 

Lorena, a San Francisco public housing resident and immigrant, decries HOPE SF’s practices, especially the policy that charges higher rent to families who are “mixed status.” – Photo: Leon Kunstenaar, Indybay

Residents from Harlem River Houses in New York City called into San Francisco to show their support and emphasized that this is a national movement against privatization, with one speaker ending her speech with: “I’m with you right here in New York, we got y’all, we got y’all’s back!”

The protest also marked the first day of collecting signatures on a citywide petition of Sunnydale and Potrero Hill residents opposing the HOPE SF privatization of public housing as well as discrimination and harassment from SFHA and private management.

For more information, please contact the United Front Against Displacement at 510-815-9978 or wewontgo@riseup.net.

The United Front Against Displacement (UFAD) is an anti-gentrification organization that resists gentrification and pushes back against attempts to criminalize and displace people. Contact the group at wewontgo@riseup.net.