Housing A Top Issue for 2014
One of the biggest stories of the last year, San Francisco’s housing crunch, will continue to command attention in 2014 as officials and housing advocates address the city’s lack of affordable housing and as concerns over evictions and skyrocketing rents remain.
Protests have taken place in recent weeks around tech companies that have received tax breaks for moving into the Mid-Market area, adding employees who often have the means to buy into the high-end complexes that are coming online, while at the same time driving up demand - and rents - for existing housing stock.
Many have looked to gay Supervisor David Campos for help. Campos, whose District 9 includes the Mission and other neighborhoods hit with displacement, recently introduced legislation to address what he’s described as "the widespread practice of landlords trying to harass tenants into self-evicting from their homes."
The 11-member Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the legislation December 17. Campos said he thinks the proposal will come up for a second and final vote at the board’s January 7 meeting.
He’s also been working to craft legislation to increase relocation funds that landlords make available to evicted tenants.
Currently, landlords have to pay amounts starting at about $5,000 per tenant, with an additional approximate $3,400 paid to tenants who are senior or disabled. Such payouts are supposed to occur when tenants are ousted through owner move-ins or similar "no fault" evictions.
Evictions under the Ellis Act have also drawn attention. The Ellis Act is a 1986 state law that allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business. The landlord must remove all units from the rental market.
Campos said details haven’t been finalized and the city attorney’s office is currently working on the proposal, but "the main objective" is to increase relocation funds "so if people go through an Ellis Act eviction," the money they receive "is sufficient to give them an opportunity to stay in San Francisco."
Campos, Mayor Ed Lee, gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and others have been working to address the Ellis Act, which has been blamed for many people in San Francisco losing their homes either through actual evictions or threats of evictions.
"We’re still trying to work that out," Campos, who is running for Assembly this year, said about what legislation from the coalition would look like.
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is also running for the Assembly seat, which is currently held by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D).
In a news release from Lee’s office, Chiu stated, "We need serious reform of California’s housing laws to keep real estate speculation from displacing more San Franciscans. I am committed to working with Mayor Lee, my colleagues, our state legislative leaders and advocates to ensure that we are protecting tenants and affordable housing."
Previous efforts to modify the Ellis Act have stalled in the Legislature.
Campos said one area of focus is "speculators coming in and buying properties" under the Ellis Act, and evicting tenants in order to make profits.
More recently, in December, Lee’s office announced a mayoral executive directive ordering all city agencies with legal authority over permitting or mapping new existing housing to prioritize building and developing "all net new housing including permanently affordable housing."
"Our city’s growing economy requires a diverse supply of new housing stock, and San Francisco needs to remain focused on protecting our existing rental housing," Lee said in a statement. "Through the Housing Trust Fund, we created a permanent source of revenue to fund affordable housing production and with our city departments, we are going to build more housing in San Francisco more effectively so our city remains an affordable place to live for people at all levels of the economic spectrum and keep families in our vibrant city."