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Feds Investigating San Francisco Affordable Housing Policy

Jeffrey Schaub
August 19, 2019 - 10:47 am

Federal housing officials have launched a probe into San Francisco's affordable housing practices. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has asked for copies of city laws related to affordable housing development dating back a decade.

The probe may be linked to a city policy called the Neighborhood Preference Program.

That program requires the city to earmark 40% of affordable units for residents already in or near the district where the building is being built.

A March 7, 2019 article in the Chronicle cited by the Northern California Chapter of the American Planning Association described the program as effective. 

But HUD in the past has said the program may violate protections against racist housing practices.

The question is, why is HUD focusing on the city of San Francisco and this program now?

"The housing market is San Francisco is very warped towards taking care of and meeting the needs of people who have a lot of money," said University of San Francisco law professor Tim Iglesias. "That's who the developers have an incentive to serve."

It also may have something to do with politics, according to Iglesias. The Trump administration has maintained 'hands-off' approach to Obama-era housing policies, until now, Iglesias said. 

"They have been pretty much single-focused on reducing their housing enforcement and sort of backing off on more aggressive or progressive work on fair housing that was done under the Obama administration," he said. 

The office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed is reviewing HUD's request.