Saving the southeast - Page 2

Foreclosure wave speeds SF's black exodus while city officials focus on new condo construction

Based on a census-driven formula, the grants sent $8 million to Oakland and no money to San Francisco.

But with half the city's foreclosures in the Bayview, home to most of the city's remaining African Americans, the fact that little has been done to save these homes — or to follow early recommendations to do so — is a gentrification crisis in the making.

Ed Donaldson, housing counseling director at the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation in the Bayview District, served on the FLWG and remembers suggesting a two-tier track. First, take steps to protect renters in places that have been foreclosed and second, buy as many foreclosed properties as possible with the aim of reselling or leasing them as affordable units. While the FLWG liked the renter protection angle, it did not support the foreclosure acquisition program.

"The idea fell on deaf ears," recalls Donaldson, who was disappointed his foreclosure purchase plan didn't make it onto FLWG's recent recommendation list. FLWG members include financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, and Patelco Credit Union; community-based organizations such as Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, SFHDC, Mission Economic Development Agency; and city agencies. The agency also has received staff support from Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, the Mayor's Office of Housing, Treasurer Jose Cisneros and the Office of the Legislative Analyst.

"We'd already seen the spike in foreclosure numbers, so how did these recommendations get pushed out? We need something with teeth," Donaldson said.

SFHDC executive director Regina Davis says she suggested a foreclosure purchase and resale plan as an AAOMTF member and was concerned when she noticed that her recommendation was not included on the list discussed at the April 23 meeting. Billed as a closing-out session, that meeting took place at the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and was attended by Davis, chair Aileen Hernandez, Redevelopment director Fred Blackwell, the Rev. Amos Brown, Barbara Cohen of the African American Action Network, Tinisch Hollins of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, and former supervisor and assessor Doris Ward, among others. The AAOMTF is finishing up its work this week.

"I got involved because I believed that in exchange for participation, we would see things done and/or funded. Part of what we want to see are real action items that keep African Americans in San Francisco or bring them back. So we really want this issue to move forward with substance," Davis told the Guardian.

Recognizing that San Francisco is facing massive budget constraints, SFHDC is proposing to borrow $1.5 million from Clearinghouse CDFI, a Los Angeles community development financial agency, to acquire and rehabilitate these foreclosed properties.

Davis' group would then turn it around and offer residents several options: buy (if the prospective buyer qualifies for the city's $150,000 downpayment assistance and a $50,000 loan from the California Housing Financing Agency); lease (in which SFHDC sells the home to the buyer but leases the land, making the price affordable), lease-to-own. Or, Davis adds, people could rent the units at affordable rates.

But to make the plan work, SFHDC need the banks to sell the properties AT below market rates.