Click here to learn
about SF tenant's rights in Public Housing.

Housing Problems?
Call our Public Housing and Section 8 Renters Rights Hotline: 345-6353

hope sf

Films about
public housing

In 1995, demolition began at Cabrini Green, one of Chicago's most "notorious" housing developments. Filmed from 1995-1999, Voices of Cabrini is the story of how redevelopment is changing this neighborhood.

A Civil Right Story
Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story is a one-hour television documentary about a contemporary American battle for civil rights.  It follows three families in Yonkers, New York, in the middle of a confrontation about the politics and law of racial discrimination in housing and schools that challenges and changes their hometown.

A film by Sudhir Venkatesh about Public Housing "transformation" in Chicago. Dislocation chronicles the lives of tenants in one building as they move through the six-month relocation process.

Frederick Wiseman's
Public Housing
Public Housing documents daily life at the Ida B. Wells public housing development in Chicago. The film illustrates some of the experiences of people living in conditions of extreme poverty.

Straight Outta Hunter's Point
This book explores the daily lives of residents of San Francisco's Public Housing.

Books About Public Housing

American Project
by Sudhir Venkatesh

From the Puritans to the Projects by Lawrence J Vale

Where Are Poor People to Live? Edited by Bennett, Smith, Wright
public housing

What is Public Housing?
Often people use the term "public housing" for any low-income housing that is funded by the federal government but public housing is only one of the different housing programs funded by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  

Public housing is distinguishable from other HUD programs in a few key ways:
  • It is owned, managed*, and operated by the local Housing Authority.  So, when tenants write their rent checks or ask for repairs, they deal with Housing Authority staff.
  • The golden rule: Tenants always pay 30% of their income in public housing. So far, there are still no "ifs, ands or buts" about this (although there are "minimum rents" in some cases when tenants have zero income).
  • Public housing is grouped in "developments" (formerly known as "projects") where many multi-family units sit side-by-side.  (There are also some very few "scattered sites" in San Francisco).
  • Public housing serves "extremely-low-income" families. In SF, the average annual household income of public housing residents is $13,206. 
  • Public housing is the oldest HUD housing program.  Most buildings were originally built after world war II, in the early '50s.  Some developments have since been rehabbed through HUD's "HOPE VI" programs (in SF, Valencia Gardens, Bernal Dwellings, Hayes Valley, North Beach). *HOPE VI properties are usually managed by outside management agencies. 
  • In SF, over 80% of public housing residents are people of color. Over 50% are senior/disabled. 
  • Public Housing can be either designated as a family development or a senior/disabled development.  In SF, about 4,000 units are family and 2,000 are senior/disabled.  
  • Other HUD low-income housing programs include Section 8, HUD-subsidized housing and some other small programs. 

Learn More About Public Housing

National Housing Law Project's Public Housing Page

National Low Income Housing Coalition's Advocacy Guide (p. 129)

HUD's Public Housing Page

KnowledgePlex's Public Housing Resource Page

The Urban Institutes's Public Housing Publications

Columbia University's Center for Urban Research Policy Publications

Read the report of the results of our community forums on the "Future of the Housing Authority"

Public Housing Tenant's Organizing

Tenant Organizing in Public Housing

ENFRONT-The National Public Housing Tenants Organization

The Coalition to Protect Public Housing (Chicago)