Advancing Policies with San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney

image of Isaac and Supervisor Haney. Isaac is a mixed race black autistic man smiling at camera with glasses, headphones, and microphone. Supervisor Haney is middle aged white man with short black hair and wearing blue checkered button down shirt.

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Isaac Haney-Owens:

Hello, this is Isaac Haney-Owens. Your host of The Kelsey’s Leaders For Inclusive Community podcast. As a part of affordable housing month, I’m interviewing individuals about housing developments, policies, and funding that can help advance *disability forward housing solutions and learn more about their own work within the affordable housing field.

Matt Haney:

We have to have more affordable housing, but we have to support people to get that housing and make sure it’s accessible. Yeah, you shouldn’t have to be evicted to access affordable housing, should be something that really is a human right and is accessible to everyone

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Today. I’m interviewing San Francisco district supervisor, Matt Haney. Let’s get started. Thanks for joining me today. I’m really excited to talk with you, to begin, can you tell me about where you work and your role there?

Matt Haney:

Sure. Thank you for having me Isaac, and it’s good to see you. I am the district six supervisor for San Francisco city and county. I represent the Tenderloin civic center, Mid-market, South of market, South Beach, Rincon Hill, Mission Bay, and Treasure Island. I have been in this role for two years. I was elected a little over two years in 2018 and we are the legislative body for the city and county of San Francisco. We make the laws and we have a role in zoning and budgeting. I’m the budget chair for the city and county. I work on behalf of the board of supervisors and with the mayor to develop and pass our $14 billion budget. I have just started my role as budget chair this year.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

So how do you feel about the Kelsey Civic Center project and what are your thoughts about the project?

Matt Haney:

I’m excited about it. It’s a great project. We obviously need affordable housing. We need affordable housing that is inclusive and there are individuals with disabilities who are often excluded even from affordable housing opportunities. I’m excited about that part of the project. I’ve seen the design and really looks beautiful and the area of the Civic Center is such a vibrant and dynamic place. It has so many arts institutions. It is actually being transformed currently with the van ES project, additional housing and the hub. I think that the Kelsey Civic Center project is really going to be an additional added benefit to the neighborhood, that is part of a broader, positive transformation of a Civic Center into a real community that connects what has been there for a long time, city hall and other things to a growing residential area.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Since San Francisco is the only city in the county which makes it unique, who creates the housing policies, the city or the county.

Matt Haney:

We are only a city in our county and we are one government. There is no city and county. I should say, there’s no city and then a county, we are the city and the county. Our board of supervisors, the mayor, and every single one of our city departments make up the city and the county, there’s no separation, there’s no city government and county government. We are one unified city and county government. Our housing policies are made by our mayor, our board of supervisors, our voters, our planning commission, and planning department, whom are all part of the unified city and county government.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

What do you think is important for housing advocates to know, do or ask in making more affordable housing in San Francisco or anywhere

Matt Haney:

Well in San Francisco, maybe more so than other places, but this is a challenge in a lot of places it’s very expensive to build housing, each unit of housing can be upwards of $400,000 a unit sometimes much higher than that. We obviously don’t have enough of it, so when we are thinking about building affordable housing, a lot of it starts with a question of resources. We really have a need in terms of affordable housing at a level of billions of dollars. We are constantly looking for more resources, whether that’s with bonds or fees that market rate or other projects will pay to help us build affordable housing and land is expensive, labor’s expensive. All of those things make it somewhat more challenging to build affordable housing.

            We’ve been making some changes that are really important to allow affordable housing to be built throughout the city and county of San Francisco because it’s already hard enough to build affordable housing. When you think about the costs, we shouldn’t be limiting ourselves as far as which neighborhoods can be built in. So I think increasingly we are already seeing more projects in places like district 11 or district two or district one or four, where we’re going to see a lot more affordable housing projects, but it still is always a challenge to make sure we have the adequate resources

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Do you make sure that people with disabilities are included in the housing policies. How do you encourage and engage the community?

Matt Haney:

Well, I think that it’s important to make sure that people with disabilities are included. That’s why projects like the Kelsey Civic Center are so critical and I’d like to see more projects like this. We have a lot of people who are living with disabilities in my district, and we work with supportive housing providers to make sure that they have adequate access and services for people with disabilities to be able to access housing. It’s something that I’m very regularly working on and engaged with.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Another good thing about the Civic Center Kelsey project is that it’s giving a disadvantaged group to be prioritized. When people display supply for affordable housing, do mayors opposite housing or do they end up getting stuck with a bunch of other people who are applying. So they’re fighting for a very few limited number of units and they have more of a competition, so then they end up less likely getting the unit.

Matt Haney:

Yeah, no, absolutely. The reality is that we do need to have an intentional approach, a targeted approach when it comes to people with disabilities, as well as other groups, because if they’re just forced to go in the same, huge pot about lots of people and they aren’t able to get to have access. This is a great example of a real opportunity that is put aside for people with disabilities.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

It took me four and a half years to get my housing because I was going through that same process and the only reason why I was able to get the place I have is I got evicted from where I was living, so that’s how I was able to get the place of living because I got a voucher that says this place tenant voucher, that allowed me to be first on the list. That’s how I was able to get my housing and that shouldn’t be how those kinds of things have to happen to somebody, for them to be able to get housing. They don’t have to lose housing to get it. People should be able to apply for these things and get it the first time around and not be stuck having to keep applying.

Matt Haney:

Well, that’s the thing. I mean, we have to have a more affordable housing, but we often have to support people in order to get that housing and make sure it’s accessible. You shouldn’t have to be evicted in order to access affordable housing, should be something that really is a human right and is accessible to everyone.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Are there any housing policies that people with disabilities can work on supporting?

Matt Haney:

Well, I think more affordable housing is important, but more intentional opportunities like the ones at Kelsey that are built into the city’s plans to build more affordable housing. We have various goals for building affordable housing for seniors, for people who are formerly homeless, for families, but also setting clear goals as it relates to housing for people with disabilities. I know there’s a lot of overlap in some cases, but really being more intentional about it is key.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

What was your path to becoming a district supervisor in the city of San Francisco?

Matt Haney:

I was born and raised in the Bay area. My family’s from San Francisco. I’ve been in the city for at least 15 years and I’ve been involved in the community here. I was an attorney, I represented people facing evictions. I ran nonprofit organizations here. I’ve been very engaged locally and I became a school board member in 2012 and served on the school board for six years. Through all those experiences, I think I felt very strongly and I still feel very strongly that San Francisco is such a special place that is worth fighting for that really has an opportunity to provide for all of our residents, with a quality of life that we can be proud of but also that we can push the boundaries. When certain people are vulnerable, when people who are excluded or targeted or discriminated against in other cities or countries, they can come to San Francisco and they can be themselves here and they can find a home here and they can be welcomed and supported and really contribute in such tremendous ways to our city.

            Yet, with all of that, I think that we are still a long way from what our potential is. As a city, we still have far too many people who are excluded from our prosperity. The young people who can’t get job opportunities here. People who are without homes, people who live in poverty. For me, what my motivation has been is to help San Francisco fulfill our potential and also continue to be that champion and leader when it comes to inclusion of all people and in celebration of all people, regardless of who they are. That’s what we’re still fighting for.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Has the pandemic changed your views on affordable housing?

Matt Haney:

Well, I think that the pandemic definitely made clear that we are all interconnected and we can’t allow for some of our neighbors and residents to be excluded from basic levels of protection. Maybe we didn’t think about it as protection before when you think about housing, healthcare, or being able to take a sick day. I think with a pandemic, we have to increasingly look at it that way, because if they can’t protect themselves, then you’re not protected either because people may get sick, and they can’t be safe and because of that, I hope that we are really at a reckoning on a number of areas where we just can’t live in a society where people don’t have housing, where they don’t have healthcare, where they don’t have worker protections, as it relates to affordable housing. If you don’t have access to that and you’re out on the street or you’re living in crowded apartments, it also puts you in danger of getting sick. When you get sick, you might get other sick. That’s a society that puts its own self at risk. I think really changing a lot of that has to start with making sure everybody has access to affordable housing.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Making sure to put up a housing is something that’s no longer a hard thing to find. We want it to be something that’s easy to find and it’s available to everybody and not to just some.

Matt Haney:

Absolutely. I agree completely.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

What do you like about your job?

Matt Haney:

You know, I like being able to work with people and to see them organize for things that they want to improve their lives and improve the lives of their neighbors and to see it happen and to see them win and be successful and to be a part of that to share with people what is happening with the government and how decisions are made and how they can impact it and to provide some level of transparency and insight into how our systems work. The systems of government and decision-making and legislation is often very exclusionary. It doesn’t allow a lot of people who historically been excluded to be included and that’s something that I feel like I see happening, and that’s something that I enjoy being involved with.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

What advice do you have for people looking to work in government?

Matt Haney:

You should do it. I think our democracy requires everyone who wants to be involved to be involved for people who want to work in government, my hats off to youa and I hope you would do it. Especially people who represent communities who are often not represented. I think it’s what makes our democracy work and is for people to work in government, but also to have a voice in government, to talk to your elected officials, to send emails, to go to hearings, to listen to hearings, to participate in the process of governance.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

If you’re not there talking to them or letting them know how you feel about an issue, then your voice is not heard. We need as many voices and these elected officials need as many voices heard so that they can make the best decision on whatever issue that they’re working on.

Matt Haney:

Absolutely. Right. I agree completely.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

So what one exciting or interesting thing you’re working on right now in housing policy

Matt Haney:

I’m working to try to get people who are living in supportive housing to make sure they don’t have to pay more than 30% of their income. As a lot of people in our city who live in supportive housing and formerly homeless, many are disabled, and they may survive on SSA, SSI, and general assistance. They’re paying 60, 70, 80, 90% of their income and to the housing costs, and it’s going to the city. That’s a thing that I think is a baseline that should be there for everyone who lives in housing in our city.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

How does the local government implement state housing policies?

Matt Haney:

Well, we are required to follow the state law. If there’s a state housing policy, we, depending on what it is, we have the responsibility to implement it.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Final question is for my last question. Home for more is the Kelsey’s tagline that represents there are many opportunities and ways to advance housing. What would you like to make home for more of?

Matt Haney:

I wanted to make a home for everyone in San Francisco who wants to be here and it shouldn’t be based on whether you can afford it and it should be regardless of disability or any other things that you should be able to live here and thrive here. That’s what makes San Francisco a wonderful place. We clearly have a long way to go but I’m glad that the Kelsey Civic Center is happening and we’ll be able to contribute that for over a hundred people.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

You think 20 years from now, affordable housing will be more readily available than it is today.

Matt Haney:

I certainly hope so. It’s really far too unavailable now.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

That’s something that just needs to keep getting more and more of, because that’s something that states just can’t stop doing because they stop working on it. The problem’s just going to get worse. It’s not a good idea to just put problems off until they’re really bad. It’s good to start the little steps to solve the big issue.

Matt Haney:

I agree.

Isaac Haney-Owens:

Thanks for listening. Make sure to check out my other episodes at thekelsey.org/stories. Have a great day.

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