Hope SF is delivering promise to improve housing projects without displacing residents
August 8, 2017
In a recent article in the San Francisco Examiner, Hope SF, an initiative to transform four of the most distressed housing projects in San Francisco, helped create safe, high-quality housing for families like the Sims family without having to make them move out of the neighborhood where they’ve lived for generations.
“We take that dilapidated, unacceptable, deferred-maintenance housing, and build incredible mixed-income communities,” said Theodore Miller, director of Hope SF, during a July 18 Health Commission meeting. “These are four of the most incredible, dynamic, diverse and resilient communities, and these are communities that need our system to do better, to do right by these families.”
Underway is this initiative to replace every public housing unit at the Hunters View, Potrero Hill, Alice Griffith and Sunnydale complexes and build new market-rate units and affordable rental and ownership housing.
Hope SF became the country’s first large-scale public housing transformation and reparations project, of which its leaders committed to renovating 2,500 housing units into sustainable and energy efficient homes without having to displace residents.
“We took our worries to Hope SF because we’ve seen what happened in the Mission, and we didn’t want that to happen,” Rose Marie Sims, a resident and housing specialist at Hunters View, told the paper in reference to the recent displacement of longtime residents in the Mission District. “Hope SF made a promise this wasn’t going to happen here.”
Hunters View, the first site where construction began, now has a 64 percent rate of households that have moved into the new community. At Alice Griffith, eighty-six percent of households have moved on-site during construction and are to move into new units.
Miller said these numbers are “historic and virtually unprecedented” retention rates for renovated public housing, adding that the federal program, Hope IV, has retained about only 15 percent of residents.
“Particularly in this climate in San Francisco, we were not going to push people out,” Miller said. “The core principle of Hope SF is non-displacement. It was a philosophical approach, it’s really a commitment that you have to decide to make.”
All three active Hope SF sites have experienced an increase in the percentage of people of color and a decline in population of white residents since the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to data provided by Hope SF.
The project’s phased development plan gives residents the option to remain in their community while construction is underway or connects them with other housing at the same rate. Hope SF reaches out to residents who choose to move off-site during renovations to inform them of their right to return.
Most residents in Hunters View remained in the neighborhood while it was being transformed, including the Sims family.
“Hope SF has kept their word. If they say they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it,” Sims said. “And in the past, that never happened.”
Hope SF works to improve the wellbeing of its residents by helping boost local schools, access to healthcare and an overall sense of community.
“We were able to secure permanent funding from the public Health Department to create civil service permanent staff, as well as infrastructure to create permanent wellness centers across the four sites,” said Rhea Bailey, director of equity and community wellness programs at the Department of Public Health, at the Health Commission meeting."
At Hunters View, financial workshops, food banks and job training have been provided to assist residents as they transition into new housing.
Each site also has at least one community builder there to build bridges between old and new residents, hear their concerns and plan community development activities like block parties or family nights.
The three sites that have been under construction have seen a decline in violent crime rates since 2013, according to data from Hope SF.
Sims now works as a housing specialist at Hunters View, where she assists residents to overcome obstacles they may experience, like paying their rent on time.
In five years, Hope SF expects to have met half of their 2,500-unit transformation goal.
The public housing units will be fully replaced in Hunters View later this year, in Alice Griffith by 2021, in Potrero by 2024 and in Sunnydale by 2027.
“We made it our sole mission to make sure no one was displaced, and we did it,” Sims said. “Now my grandkids are able to play outside when my children were never able to.”
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