Tenants Evicted by Ellis Act to Get Priority for Affordable Housing Programs
Update: This legislation has passed. If you are a tenant who has lived in your home for at least 10 years and have been displaced by an Ellis Act eviction filed since January 1, 2012, you may be eligible for a Certificate of Preference. Visit the Mayors Office of Housing website for more details, or to apply for your certificate. You can also call Homeownership SF at 415-202-5463.
From SF Chronicle
Written by Marisa Lagos
S.F. supervisors pass tough measures for tenants.
The Board of Supervisors confronted San Francisco's eviction and housing supply problems Tuesday, passing three measures aimed at protecting rent-controlled units and helping tenants who lose their homes.
The board unanimously passed a proposal by Supervisor David Chiu to give priority for publicly funded housing to tenants who are evicted under the Ellis Act and two measures by Supervisor John Avalos that try to keep existing rental units on the market.
Chiu said his measure is one of many that city leaders are pursuing to address rising housing prices and a spike in evictions in recent years.
"There is no silver bullet," Chiu said. "We have to move forward with a comprehensive set of policies, including building more housing, protecting the housing stock we have, and ensuring tenants, seniors and families who have lived here for years don't get evicted and continue to have a place in our city."
To qualify for the priority housing, tenants would have had to have lived in their rental for at least 10 years, five if they are disabled. They would have to be evicted under the Ellis Act, which allows owners to boot out tenants when they want to take a building off the rental market. Chiu said that if the legislation had been in effect in 2013, it could have helped about 100 households.
Mayor's approval expected.
The legislation goes to Mayor Ed Lee, who pledged his support months ago and is expected to sign it this week.
The supervisors also unanimously approved Avalos' measures. The first would give property owners the right to upgrade or alter an estimated 52,000 existing units that are legal but don't conform to zoning laws governing density. Many of the units were built before those zoning laws existed, but the property owners are stuck in legal limbo because they can't get city permits to make improvements or fix problems.
One supporter of the law, Gale Bradley, said she has spent "a fortune" on lawyers fighting the city over its objections to two of the four units in her Twin Peaks building and lost $2,000 a month because she has been unable to refinance her mortgage.
Because those units, which Bradley called "affordable and rent-controlled," do not conform to updates to the planning code, the city wanted her to remove them, she said. When she refused, the city eventually assessed a fine and placed a lien on her property. For several years, city officials also refused to issue the permits she needed to replace a rotting deck and deteriorated siding. After hiring attorneys, she finally secured the permits, but she still has the lien on the house.
'Absolutely livable' property
"I think it's outrageous. Here I have a legitimate, beautiful apartment that is up to code and absolutely livable, and they are saying these units are illegal," she said. "My building has four doorbells, four floors, four balconies, four kitchens - it's not any different from the day it was built," in 1978.
Avalos' second piece of legislation was more controversial. It seeks to discourage owners from taking rental units off the market by making it more difficult to merge multiple units into a single-family home, convert housing property to commercial or other use, or demolish a rental.
Under the measure, a property owner would be barred from merging, converting or demolishing a unit for 10 years after most evictions. In a building where no eviction has occurred, the legislation would require such changes go to the City Planning Commission. The commission would be required to consider whether the changes would hurt the city's rent-controlled housing stock, if replacement units are being provided and if they are affordable.
"We are looking at preserving rental property," Avalos said. "Part of our general plan is to preserve the apartment stock we have. ... This legislation comes out of that value, to keep existing tenants in their homes and disincentive Ellis Act evictions."
Property owner objections
But property owners objected, saying the law should have an exemption for people who evict tenants so they can move into their own building. Without that exemption, the proposal "not only punishes real estate speculators ... it punishes working-class people," said Janan New, head of the San Francisco Apartment Association, which represents building owners.
Avalos refused to exempt owner move-in evictions altogether but agreed to reduce the time period in which changes to the unit are barred from 10 years to five in those cases.
The measures will face one more vote at the board next week before they can be sent to the mayor.