Who gets to live here? - Page 2

Renewed debates about housing policy will shape what kind of city San Francisco becomes


Most of this will be market rate housing, and thus still unaffordable for a good deal of the population. But for those making around 100 percent of AMI — the middle class that Wiener hopes to serve — there are more rental units on the way.

"Any increase in supply of rental housing would help," said San Francisco Tenants Rights head Ted Gullickson, "because there's been virtually no new rental housing built in San Francisco is last 20 years."

Even as Wiener promised to continue to prioritize the needs low-income residents, the foreclosure crisis was barely acknowledged at the Feb. 13 hearing. Many low-income residents say they are not sure they can trust the city's claim that "this is not a matter of us vs. them."

At public comment, many community members spoke of the housing troubles that they were already facing. Yue Hua Yu, who spoke at the Feb. 13 hearing, lives with her family of four in a single residency occupancy hotel room (SRO), units intended for single occupants.

"We would support a policy that protects the city's affordable housing stock," said a statement from Wing Hoo Leumg, president of the Chinatown Community Tenants Association.

Renting may be the realistic choice for most San Franciscans, but homeownership remains an important goal and achievement for many families, and the main obsession of many politicians.

Part of the middle class exodus is unmistakably due to better homeownership rates in Oakland, Daly City, Marin, and other surrounding areas. But there are neighborhoods with higher rates of homeownership than others, including Bayview-Hunters Point.

BHP has long been a prime spot for low-income homeowners, but it's slated for extensive new housing construction in the coming decades that could compromise its affordability. It is also an area hit hard by the foreclosure crisis: there have been 2,000 foreclosures in Bayview in the past four years, according to Ed Donaldson, housing counseling director at the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation.

Rising prices and the foreclosure crisis have played a large part in the large-scale African American out-migration that has devastated San Francisco communities in recent decades.




One of the biggest points of controversy in the homeownership debate has been the issue of condo conversion, which was brought up again this past week at the Feb. 14 Board of Supervisors meeting, when Sup. Mark Farrell asked Lee if he would support legislation to let 2400 tenancy-in-common (TIC) owners bypass legal limits and fastrack towards condo conversion.

Farrell framed this as "a vehicle to allow residents of our city to realize their goal of homeownership."

On Jan. 16, the city held its annual condo conversion lottery, in which 200 lucky TIC owners win the chance to convert their units into condos, thereby legally becoming homeowners. TICs and condo conversion have long been fraught with controversy in San Francisco, where there is never enough housing for everyone who wants it.

Condo conversion proponents say that turning a TIC — usually a building that used to be rental housing that has been purchased by a group of people that own it in common — into condos is a cheap way to become a homeowner in a city as expensive as San Francisco.

But tenants rights advocates have long opposed this process on the basis that it depletes the city of its rental housing stock. "When you have more condo conversions, you have more evictions, and it's harmful to low-income residents" Gullicksen said.

This controversy, and the struggle to maintain a balance between opportunities for homeownership and reasonable rents has raged in San Francisco for years. In 1982, the Board of Supervisors passed a limit of 200 condo conversions per year as a compromise. There are no regulations, however, on converting rental housing to TICs.

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