Privatization of public housing

Many residents feel they're moving from the frying pan of Housing Authority control into the fire of developer and nonprofit management

Sabrina Carter (foreground) ascends the City Hall staircase with activists who came to implore city officials to help rescind he

Like so many San Franciscans, Sabrina Carter is getting evicted.

The mother of three says that if she loses her home in the Western Addition, she'll have nowhere to go. It's been a tough, four-year battle against her landlord — a St. Louis-based development company called McCormack Baron — and its law firm, Bornstein & Bornstein. That's the same law firm that gained notoriety for holding an "eviction boot camp" last November to teach landlords how to do Ellis Act evictions and sweep tenants out of rent-controlled housing.

But Carter's story isn't your typical Ellis eviction. Plaza East, where she lives, is a public housing project. Public housing residents throughout the country are subject to the "one-strike and you're out" rule. If residents get one strike — any misdemeanor or felony arrest — they get an eviction notice. In Carter's case, her 16-year-old was arrested. He was cleared of all charges — but Carter says McCormack Baron still wouldn't accept her rent payment and wouldn't respond to her questions.

"I was never informed of my status," she said.

That is, until her son was arrested again, and Carter found herself going up against Bornstein & Bornstein. She agreed to sign a document stipulating that her eviction would be called off unless her son entered Plaza East property (he did). It was that or homelessness, said Carter, who also has two younger sons.

"They criminalized my son so they could evict my family," Carter said.

McCormack Baron and Bornstein & Bornstein both declined to comment.

On March 12, Carter and a band of supporters were singing as they ascended City Hall's grand staircase to Mayor Ed Lee's office.

"We're asking the mayor to call this eviction off. Another black family cannot be forced out of this city," Lisa "Tiny" Gray-Garcia, co-founder of Poor Magazine, said at the protest.

Nearly half of San Francisco's public housing residents are African American, according to a 2009 census from the city's African American Out-Migration Task Force. These public housing residents represent a significant portion of San Francisco's remaining African American population, roughly 65 percent.

Carter's eviction was postponed, but it raises an important question: Why is a public housing resident facing off with private real estate developers and lawyers in the first place?



Plaza East is one of five San Francisco public housing properties that was privatized under HOPE VI, a federal program that administers grants to demolish and rebuild physically distressed public housing.

The modernized buildings often have fewer public housing units than the ones they replaced, with private developers becoming their managers. San Francisco's take on HOPE VI, called HOPE SF, is demolishing, rebuilding, and privatizing eight public housing sites with a similar process.

US Department Housing and Urban Development is rolling out a new program to privatize public housing. The San Francisco Housing Authority is one of 340 housing projects in the nation to be chosen for the competitive program. The city is now starting to implement the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. When it's done, 75 percent of the city's public housing properties will be privatized.

Under RAD, developers will team up with nonprofits and architectural firms to take over managing public housing from the Housing Authority. RAD is a federal program meant to address a nationwide crisis in public housing funding. Locally, the effort to implement the program has been spurred by the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development.


You're better off with private sector landlords.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

Guest, first off - in case the writing wasn't large enough, this is PRIVATIZATION, get it? taking govt OUT of it - this is what happens when you PREVENT the govt from running housing.....and that's why it's fucked up, no one to prevent the developer from evicting poor people and doing it strictly to make a profit.
damn, read a fucking book or something.

Posted by chico on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

"That is, until her son was arrested again"

Funny that the SFBG in cases like this doesn't mention what the son was arrested for.

Was he convicted?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 4:42 pm

More details from POOR magazine:

The firm has recently claimed a victory when they represented McCormick and Baron in the eviction of Sabrina Carter and her young children from Plaza East (PE) apartments under the "child criminalizing" act of failing to keep her eldest son away from her and the property. When Sabrina's younger son was shot and wounded a while back, the property management had failed to follow protocol and disregarded the letter from the DA'S victim services to relocate Sabrina's family to a different property for the safety and mental well-being of her family. After signing a "railroad" stipulation with her lawyer present, agreeing to keeping her eldest son off the rental property in order to maintain her housing, Sabrina is now battling an eviction because she cannot "control her son", and Sabrina also claims that once she signed the stipulation, her son all of a sudden became a target of the po'lice and says that the po'lice has been inside her home when she was not present.

She says that she has also been harassed and intimidated by the lawyer for PE apartments, (Bornstein & Bornstein). Ms.Carter has jumped through every hoop to comply with the stipulation and exhausted every resource to get intervention for her son. "I have done the best I could do with telling him to stay away- I have filed restraining orders, I have signed documents banning him from the property and I even have a letter from the judge stating that I have complied with McCormick and Baron to the fullest extent, but the truth is that he is a grown man that's going to do what he wants." Despite all Sabrina has done, she and her two younger sons face homelessness through the criminalization of our children.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 5:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

Sounds like they're great neighbors...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

A few observations: 1) Sabrina Carter's 16-year-old son criminalized himself, a repeat offender, a psychopath. She only needs to prohibit him from trespassing to continue her tenancy. If she refuses, she will be evicted for causes prescribed. 2) Any ethnic, Black, White or Other can be “forced out of this city” and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee should be busy forming policies to bring into force, equity instead of unaffordability concerning housing, instead of engaging ethnic interventions. 3) I now know why my housing number never materialized, after applying with San Francisco Housing Authority in 2003. That is, “half of San Francisco's public housing residents are African American.” Just one more distinction; if you are born in America, you are American, not African. You might be a Black American. You are not African, although, you may be of African lineage. I know others who are African (born in one of many African countries), Latino (born in one of many Latin American countries, Guatemala, Italy, Spain and Portugal etc.), Swiss (born in Switzerland) and German (born in Deutschland) etc. These were not born on domestic American soil.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

In comparison with Amsterdam in the Netherlands- our public housing is sinfully inadequate. Amsterdam is a city with about the same population - (650,000 to our 702,000). They have @ 200,000 subsidized housing units ! We have 38,000 people in subsidized housing.

San Francisco needs FIVE TIMES the number of low-income units that we have, and many of the existing units are depressingly small, designed like a prison cell and poorly constructed. Add to that a lack of maintenance and surly management, it's a nightmare to live in these places.

Segregation by income is stupid.

Subsidized units are scattered throughout Amsterdam, some in the choicest neighborhoods. You cannot point to a building and say that is subsidized housing - because there is no visible difference. There is no stigma to being poor. Many residents in subsidized units stay on after they start earning a decent wage - their system is generous to the low income residents, allowing them to stay and pay more when they can. In San Francisco - you MUST move out when you income exceeds a certain amount.

We have much to achieve. A society is judged on how well it treats its neediest members. We are failing miserably.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

Are the kids crimes/arrests ones that the would/should have the neighbors concerned?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 8:40 am

90% of the time, I walk into Marijuana smoke-filled air in the Public Housing apartments, usually with minors at home.
80% of the time, trash, dirty floors, soiled diapers and dirty clothes piles are everywhere.
90% of the time, people NOT on the lease, are residing with the program participants.
80% of the time, gang members reside in the apartment.
80% of the time, employment income is not reported
75% of the time, same particiapnts are on some welfare assistance, long term.
75% of the time, same participants are receiving SSI for themselves or their child.
25% of the time, they own property and sublet the public housing unit, not reporting this asset or the "rental" income.

2% of the time, I find I can thank a program participant for keeping their unit clean and reporting their family / income correctly to the agency.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

And 100% of statistics which don't have a source should be ignored.

Posted by Ray Polglaze on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 4:35 am

And 100% of statistics which don't have a source should be ignored.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 4:36 am

Comment was posted by Public Housing employee, so to cite source would be counter - productive to their employment status, but ITS ALL TRUE.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 7:51 am

I'm sorry she has such a rotten son.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 11, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

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