BayLegal advocacy prevents 100% rent increase for San Francisco’s most vulnerable tenants

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Today Bay Area Legal Aid is celebrating a coordinated and successful group effort by our San Francisco Housing team to stop San Francisco Housing Authority from doubling the minimum rent for the most vulnerable Section 8 holders in the city.

SFHA currently faces a nearly $30 million dollar shortfall in their Housing Choice Voucher program. As part of their efforts to increase revenue, HUD asked SFHA to raise the minimum rent from $25 per month to $50. Households qualify for minimum rent because they have no income, or their income is so low that 30% of it would be less than $25 per month.

SFHA stated that 757 households qualified for minimum rent. 574 of those households qualified for hardships and paid less than the minimum rent. That left 182 households to pay the extra $25 per month – totaling an extra $54,600 a year for SFHA to pay toward their $30 million dollar debt. At only 0.182% of the amount SFHA owes, this increased revenue would be essentially meaningless for SFHA’s budget-balancing efforts — at the cost of increasingly precarious housing, financial insecurity, and potential homelessness for some of the city’s lowest-income tenants.

BayLegal staff attorneys Tiffany Hickey and Ryan Murphy prepared written comments to the suite of changes to the Admin Plan proposed to address the shortfall, including our opposition to the increase to minimum rent. Staff attorney Lolita Fernandes monitored the SFHA Commission meetings, alerted the team to a scheduled Commission vote on the proposal, and worked with Tiffany Hickey to prepare staff attorney Charlotte Vijftigschild for the public comment period.

BayLegal’s comments regarding the changes to the Admin Plan were referenced repeatedly at the meeting. The Commissioners had clearly considered BayLegal’s thoughtful input. The impact of the written statement was amplified by Charlotte Vijftigschild’s focused, powerful presentation before the Commissioners, who struck down the proposal to increase the rent, and thanked BayLegal publicly for our advocacy.

This San Francisco Examiner article discusses the meeting and our efforts. It also highlights Ryan Murphy’s wonderfully pithy comment: “the proposal ‘is like curing cancer with a cough drop and should therefore not be approved.”

Congratulations and Thank You to all of the SF Housing team for this great outcome!!