SF Weekly Exclusive -- It's Official: San Francisco Repeats as Soweto USA

Categories: Local News
skyline968x147.jpgBy Matt Smith

For the third year running San Francisco has managed its public housing as the equivalent of a Third World slum. 

New information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development confirms that San Francisco's Housing Authority -- which oversees 6,400 apartments, housing 35,000 residents -- failed a 2006 inspection and was officially labeled a "troubled agency," a status it has suffered since 2004. 

While the latest publicly confirmed federal inspection results are from 2006, there is no indication that conditions have improved substantially since then. If 2007 results demonstrate what tenants own eyes see, San Francisco could achieve a human misery quinfecta, overseeing substandard housing for a half decade.

The "troubled" classification does more than put a seal of undeniability on San Francisco's ramshackle buildings, deadly exposed wiring and other violations.

If the U.S. government were actually fulfilling its role as watchdog over federally subsidized housing, the designation could jeopardize San Francisco's ability to collect millions of dollars in subsidies from the federal government. If the  deficiencies cited in HUD inspections aren't fixed, the federal government has authority to take a local agency over.

However, the current Republican presidential administration so far hasn't had much stomach for seizing, and spending money overhauling, disgracefully sub-par SF housing. As a result, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and the Housing Authority Commission he appoints, have avoided the embarrassment of federal intervention.

But here's an SF Weekly hip tip for residents of Hunters View, Sunnydale, Potero Annex, and the rest of Soweto San Francisco: Slumlord Newsom's federal regulatory free ride doesn't mean tenants can't try to  sue. If San Francisco subsidized housing units were ordinary private dwellings, in some cases conditions wouldn't be up to city housing codes. And the landlord could be found to be in violation of the law. It might be useful to pose a legal question that says, 'Why should the city's public housing be any different?'

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