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SDHC’s self-serving misuse of public housing funds is business as usual

May 27, 2021


Re: SDHC’s self-serving misuse of public housing funds is business as usual

Local media has1 been2 discussing3 on how a San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) agent financially benefited from a real estate transaction. Par for the course, SDHC staff and long-time general counsel tried to distance themselves.

While this transaction involving public funds is shocking, it is business as usual for SDHC. The only difference with this transaction as compared to SDHC’s other transactions is the fact that the media covered it.

The NAACP San Diego Branch’s and San Diego Tenant Union’s pending racial segregation lawsuit against SDHC uses public data to illustrate SDHC’s concerning use of federal Section 8 funds, and how SDHC’s actions harm low-income families. In court filings, we describe how SDHC fails to use public funds on the low-income families the funds are intended to assist. Public data shows that SDHC’s actions make it an outlier when compared to other similarly situated housing commissions.

When we filed the lawsuit, public data showed that SDHC was on track to spend only 80% of its millions in Section 8 voucher funds on vouchers. At the same time, SDHC financially benefited itself with growing reserves while low-income families struggled to stay housed and avoid homelessness. As of 2020, SDHC’s federal funds in unrestricted reserves was $43 million, up from $36 million in 2018 and $32 million in 2016. Today, compared to housing commissions across the nation, public Section 8 funds show that SDHC had the sixth largest amount of funds in reserves.

Our pending lawsuit uses SDHC’s own data, policies, and statements to illustrate how SDHC intentionally perpetuates racial segregation in violation of federal law, state law, and its own contractual obligations. The lawsuit aims to stop the perpetuation of segregation in San Diego’s largest subsidized housing program. Recently, we were forced to file a second lawsuit against SDHC after it refused to provide data in response to our Public Records Act request. That lawsuit is also pending.

We should be shocked that a government entity knowingly overspent public funds on a real estate purchase that financially benefits one of its agents. We should be especially shocked because the government entity is responsible for overseeing low-income housing during a pandemic for the City with the fourth largest homelessness population nationwide.

But what is most shocking is how San Diego elected officials enable SDHC’s actions. Elected officials’ silence is deafening. SDHC needs to be held accountable for their misuse of funds. If even news stories on SDHC’s misuse of funds aren’t enough for San Diego’s elected officials to do their job and monitor all of SDHC’s financial actions, what will it take?

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