A longtime resident of Midtown Park, Phyllis Bowie is no stranger to standing up for what she believes in - in 1964 she picketed for civil rights on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. The story of this former US Air Force officer took a strange turn during the income certification – a program implemented by Mayor’s Office of Housing and carried out by Mercy Housing. This brought in federal dollars to pay for years of deferred maintenance and turned Midtown into public housing. “I believe the promises of Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Breed – that every single tenant will be treated fairly. Their wishes are not being implemented, and they may not be aware of that,” says an emotional community activist who is facing a 400% rent increase.
From the beginning it was easy to see that the intent of Mercy and MOH was to raise Phyliss’s rent - they did not want to play fair. In January 2015 Phyllis received a notice that MOH was missing documentation to verify her income, and she immediately called Mercy employee tasked with carrying out income certification. After being placed on hold for over forty minutes, Phyllis was told that there was no need for her to present additional documentation and her file was complete.
Having required income papers on hand - the very thing that MOH asked for, Phyllis was perplexed but trusted the process. Her surprise knew no bounds when she received a letter from Mercy informing her of a rent increase to market rate because “her income could not be verified.”
Midtown is owned by the Mayor’s Office of Housing, which faces charges of constructive eviction based on rent increases that residents allege are intended to banish long-time African-American tenants from San Francisco. Mercy faces allegations of gross mismanagement and tenant harassment, including illegal unit entry, car towing, issuing eviction threats.
For decades 130 Midtown families have been pursuing equity ownership of their property and satisfied mortgage in 2007. However, in 2013 the City awarded a master lease in a no-bid contract to Mercy Housing that immediately hiked rents and put an end to the ownership model.
Distressed by Mercy actions, long-time residents demand that Mercy terminates its month-to-month lease with the city and leaves Midtown. A legal victory would grant rent control protection and allow the work towards equity ownership to continue claim residents. Furthermore, residents call for a halt of Mercy Housing plan to demolish the complex, since no plans for relocation of the residents has been put in place.
An immigrant from Okinawa, Japan who resided in Midtown for over twenty years, Tomiko is soft-spoken woman with a kind nature that portrays her former calling as a preschool teacher. As an exemplary tenant and a single mother, Tomiko has not missed a rent payment since she moved in, even when she her health issues made her employment untenable in 2013.
Having dutifully paid rent out of savings, Tomiko ran into a host of issues during income certification process conducted by Maureen McAleenan and Joan McNamara. At first Tomiko was sternly questioned about the nature of her rent payment, “they asked how can you afford to pay rent if you aren’t working?” She was then asked by Maureen to submit income documents from her son Max who no longer resides with her and attends SJSU full time.
Facing an immediate Japan trip due to a family emergency, Tomiko asked her son to prep the required papers in her absence. Upon her return, Tomiko was faced with screaming Joan McNamara who was incredibly accusatory over her trip and denied the very papers that Maureen asked for. Two weeks later Tomiko received a letter from Mercy outlining her new rent – 400% the amount of what she has paid.
It’s clear that Mercy in conjunction with Mayor’s Office of Housing preyed on persons requiring assistance in their bid to raise rent to as many people as possible with little cause and cause their displacement.
Above are just some of the stories shared by residents on our Facebook page. Unfortunately many are afraid to speak up due to repercussions by Mercy and MOH. You can see more at www.facebook.com/savemidtown