Part of S.F. Housing Complex Reserved for Seniors at Risk of Displacement

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Willie B. Kennedy Apartments at 1239 Turk St. in San Francisco. (Cesar Saldaña/KQED)

A housing complex for low-income seniors, which was at the center of controversy between San Francisco and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration, celebrated its grand opening Friday.

The Willie B. Kennedy Apartments -- named after the late San Francisco supervisor -- prioritizes 40 percent of its 98 units for low-income seniors in the city who are most at risk of displacement. It also designates 20 percent of the units for formerly homeless seniors.

Last fall, HUD told Mayor Ed Lee that his initial preference, which would prioritize Western Addition residents, violated the Fair Housing Act. So city officials proved that the areas surrounding the housing project, which have a large Latino and black population, are being hit hardest by San Francisco’s rising rent crisis.

The Willie B. Kennedy Apartments is the first development in San Francisco to test the city's "anti-displacement housing preference," according to the mayor's office.

Calvin Johnson, one of the first residents in the building, is a retired real estate broker who has lived in San Francisco 55 years.

“Thank you all for coming out to see this wonderful complex,” Johnson said at the grand opening. “I enjoy it immensely, and I want to be here for a while.”


A HUD spokesman at the opening said the federal agency gave $15 million to the project and vowed to support it for 40 years.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed grew up in the Western Addition and said she was happy to see that residents of the community were able to find housing.

“People live here who actually knew Ms. Kennedy,” Breed said. “This was a community effort to make sure that when we built this housing and it opened, people in this neighborhood knew people in this building that are from this neighborhood.”