Ground Breaking of the new Eddy & Taylor Family Apartments, photo courtesy of TNDC

Founded in 1981, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation was conceived during an era when hotel chains saw the Tenderloin as an opportunity to move in and push SROs (single room occupancy) out. Today, they provide affordable housing and services to over 4,100 low-income residents. TNDC boasts 39 properties, employs 319 people and strives to promote causes such as urban food growth and community organizing.

Elizabeth Orlin, the Chief Operating Officer of TNDC, was kind enough to answer a few questions we had regarding their current projects, the state of the rental market and how residents can best help those struggling to find housing.

BuzzBuzzNews: Could you tell us about some of the new projects you have in the pipeline?

Elizabeth Orlin: We have a very active housing development pipeline — 11 buildings underway! We just broke ground on the Eddy and Taylor Family Apartments, which will provide affordable housing for 113 families and a commercial ground floor space focused on addressing food security and affordability. We have two projects which will finish construction next year, 1036 Mission and Mission Bay Block 6e, providing homes for 608 people.

We continue to expand our work in food justice by building community gardens at various properties, increasing our food distribution and expanding our nutrition education programs. Together, with a group of committed stakeholders, we have devised a “Development Without Displacement” plan and began implementing key strategies to prevent displacement and ensure that new development projects serve the existing Tenderloin and mid-Market communities.

BBN: What are some of the biggest hurdles the neighborhood is facing in terms of city government restrictions and/or NIMBYs?

EO: The Tenderloin is one of the few communities where NIMBYs won’t actively oppose affordable housing, or housing in general, which is a positive thing, though it can put pressure on the existing housing stock and available land. For local residents that live in privately owned buildings, we have seen people facing increased threat of eviction. San Francisco Rent Board data has shown that evictions are rising faster in the Tenderloin than in San Francisco’s other neighborhoods, with the Tenderloin’s 173 notices of eviction second only to the Mission in 2016.

There is also a vocal minority in the Tenderloin that thinks the Tenderloin has enough social services and housing for poor people, and instead pushes for new developments geared to the wealthy, and this is a form of NIMBYism we actively work against. We believe in healthy mixed-income neighborhoods that still serve their existing residents who are struggling to make ends meet. While new development may bring beneficial resources to the Tenderloin, we must work together to prevent the displacement of current Tenderloin residents and guarantee those residents still feel welcome in their neighborhood.

Willie B. Kennedy Apartments, a recently completed building for seniors, photo courtesy of TNDC

BBN: TNDC has helped low-income residents through two dot-com bubbles. Does it seem like this latest one is on the downswing? How did TNDC manage to help those in need during the housing crisis?

EO: It’s difficult for us to say if the latest surge in housing prices in on the downswing or not. TNDC has helped those in need for over 35 years by providing people with stable permanent housing that is not subject to the ups and downs of the market, and which will remain affordable regardless of the economic climate. We also make it a priority to listen to our residents, identify the issues of most concern to them and advocate for their needs as much as possible.

BBH: How long is the average waitlist for one of your affordable housing properties?

EO: Our waitlist size varies by property. Some of our buildings are dedicated exclusively for people who have been homeless and these homes are filled by a referral process established by the City. As for the rest of our buildings that serve individuals, families, and/or seniors, the waitlists are typically in the hundreds, and waiting for a home can be a multi-year process. Regardless of the property’s specific guidelines for applicants, there is always more need than there are homes available — a sobering fact that reminds us just how critical and necessary our work is.

Residents, photo courtesy of TNDC

BBN: What advice would you give to those applying for housing with TNDC?

EO: Applicants should be sure to understand the selection criteria for our properties. For example, some homes are only for seniors or people with disabilities, some are for youth ages 18 to 24, and all have occupancy and income restrictions. The City has established a new online system for applicants of affordable housing, so people should create an account on this new “DAHLIA” system. The system quickly notifies someone of housing opportunities they potentially qualify for, accepts selectronic applications and provides an instant application status.

BBN: Are there any stories of individuals or families who have been aided by TNDC that stand out?

EO: A current TNDC board member and resident, Curtis Bradford, easily stands out. Curtis is a charming and sweet man who can often be seen walking his dog, Maggie Mae, around the Tenderloin. He is absolutely devoted to his neighborhood and improving the lives of those who have been marginalized. Previously without a home and struggling with addiction and health issues, Curtis understands his community’s challenges and attributes his turnaround to finding stability with TNDC. He has called his new home with TNDC “a life changer, a life saver.” His words are a great reminder that the work we do really does change lives.

BBN: How can local residents help? Is there a volunteer program?

EO: There are regular corporate and individual volunteer opportunities in TNDC’s Tenderloin People’s Garden and the Tenderloin After-School Program. Otherwise, we always need help for special projects and around the holidays. Contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Haley Caldwell at hcaldwell@tndc.org  or visit http://www.tndc.org/volunteer/ for details.

“TNDC at 35,” the nonprofit’s recent eBook, can can be downloaded for free here.

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