City Hall must address rising rents

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EDITORIAL Another flurry of public concern over rising rents in San Francisco — driven by one-bedroom apartments listed for almost $4,000, a well-attended forum on gentrification in the Mission, fresh residential and commercial evictions, and a poll showing 63 percent think the city is building too much luxury housing — has been ignited. And once again, it's falling on deaf ears at City Hall.

Working class residents, small businesses, and nonprofits are being driven out of San Francisco, unable to keep up in a city that increasingly caters to chain stores, wealthy residents, and tourists (both vacationers and conventioneers).

When Mayor Ed Lee and kindred politicians, who have fueled the rising rents with tax breaks and pro-landlord policies, are asked about the problem, they mouth stale rhetoric about job creation, change the subject (gee, we now have bike share!), or cite far-off and insufficient solutions like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

San Francisco's landlords are doing great — despite the sob stories published recently by tone-deaf local media outlets such as San Francisco Magazine — and they've actually been emboldened to start attacking rent control as somehow hurting renters, threatening the last lifeline of diversity in the city.

The whole debate has gotten so surreal that it would be funny if it weren't so serious. The future of San Francisco is at stake, yet nobody at City Hall with any clout seems to be taking it seriously. So here are a few places where our policymakers could start:

- End corporate welfare. Twitter is valued at $1 billion as it prepares its initial public stock offering, so it doesn't need a $22 million multi-year tax break from city taxpayers. In 2012, city tax breaks nearly quadrupled, reaching $14.2 million (and that's not even counting the $2 million annually that Airbnb is simply refusing to pay). Enough! We need that money more than Wall Street does.

- Hold developers accountable. Lennar Urban has been sitting on public land in southeast San Francisco for a decade while housing officials just let it slide. Lennar should front-load affordable housing or lose its land. Threaten a citywide moratorium on all market-rate housing permits until more low-income units come online and watch what happens. And protect existing rent control apartments from illegal subletting.

- Stand with people, not capital. Put the clout of San Francisco behind Richmond's threat to buy underwater mortgages, using eminent domain if necessary, as Sup. David Campos proposed. Mayor Lee's Housing Authority "reforms" should cater to residents rather than developers. Push for state-level reforms like pro-tenant changes to the Ellis Act, a Prop. 13 split role, and the right to control commercial rents and vacancies.

It's time to change the conversation.

 

Comments

Socialized housing under community or tenant control.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Put in an offer for an existing building and then convert it to co-op.

So what are you waiting for? You don't need a policy change for that to happen. It just needs you to step up.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 10:50 am

"We need more construction but new build of BMR is constrained by cost ..."

Real estate prices are too high for your suggestion to work without non-existent subsidies.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 11:06 am

would have the effect of lowering rents. If done on a sufficient scale, the alleged need for BMR homes would dwindle because more and more people would be able to afford market-rate homes.

In an ideal world, you do not need BMR homes because the average person can afford the average home. And it's not just an "ideal" as many other cities manage it.

I'd agree with you that subsidies are not workable though, mostly because the voters are not interested in paying more taxes.

Until then, remember that Oakland has better weather and transportation.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 11:25 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into reactionary hyperbole and/or petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

the post you are failing to bar is highly cogent, accurate and effective.

When you think you have a counter-argument, you make it. When you don't, you troll.

So readers, when you see a troll barrier, you know that Lilli knows that he has lost the debate. Which of course is why you are seeing it a lot.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 25, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

He wants the gubbermint to do it for him with other peoples' money,

Posted by Guest on Sep. 26, 2013 @ 6:16 am

Agreed. We need a a change in conversation. Abandoning polices like rent control that are designed to provide balance, diversity, and livability is not the answer. People come to SF because we have those policies. Techies want to live in diverse cities (ethnically and socioeconomically) with healthier lifestyle options, and progressive politics.

The question is how do we increase supply in times when demand outstrips supply? The city needs to step into a more active role in this but there seems to be a paralysis and a lack of political courage to do that. This problem is pervasive in our society right now. Yes we can let the market lead and provide better video games, ways to say things in 24 characters, and faster ways to find temporary living arrangements but solving real issues like lack of housing, significant transportation improvements, immigration reform, development of new types of antibiotics, homelessness, lowering health care costs, and the like require leadership by governments.

Posted by Andrew Resignato on Sep. 26, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

ends up being nothing more than more and bigger government, more bureaucrats and things getting worse. You only have to look at Congress to see that endlessly raising the national debt ceiling has done nothing to rein in excess spending.

If you plot a graph of home prices against land use restrictions, you see an almost perfect correlation. Stop people developing land and you are guaranteed to have high home values, and therefore high rents.

While policies like rent control clearly are failing, else we would not be having this debate. After 34 years of rent control, SF has sky high rents. Didn't work.

We could try lots of things but only two outcomes are possible:

1) SF continues to become more and more expensive, with poorer folks decamping out in to the East Bay and commuting in. Call that the Aspen solution, where the service workers all live in camps well outside that fabulous resort.

2) A massive building program. Call that the Houston/Pheonix solution.

I'm betting that #1 will win the day, since SF is full of NIMBY's.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 26, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

The housing imbalance is coming from Silicon Valley as much as it's caused by the severe housing/jobs imbalance in SF. When companies like Apple, Oracle, Yahoo, Facebook and dozens of other local multi-billion dollar companies hire tens of thousands of new workers without providing housing for them, that's how the severe housing crisis is being created. Until the government steps up to force these business leaders to provide housing for at least 75% of their workforce within a few miles of the workplace so the workers can walk, ride a bike or take a jitney to work, then we can expect continuing evictions and outrageous housing prices in places like SF.

The neighbor around the corner was evicted by a googler. The family across the street was evicted by a yahooer. A friend was evicted a few years ago by an Appler. We know these companies and their workers are as greedy as anyone, but why does the government allow these companies to import jobs and workers into the area without the companies providing housing for them? And why aren't Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto building tens of thousands of housing units for the workers in their community? The government and these wealthy companies are engaged in an all out war against current SF Bay Area residents who are neither wealthy nor homeowners. The city wins every time there's another eviction followed by a TIC conversion since the city gets a lot more property tax revenue after the conversion, so the mayor and board are active beneficiaries in the ongoing rapid gentrification of SF. A few million tossed to tenant groups will do every little to stop the ongoing transformation of SF to an enclave for the very elite and the very poor.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

That's not their business.

And also then, if you lose your job, you also lose your home.

Terrible idea.

Dude, some people have more money than you do. Accept it.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

than ever, as the Chronicle reports today:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/nativeson/article/Tech-has-made-S-F-homeow...

If you worked hard and took some risks, it paid off. If you played it safe with a rent-controlled flat and never moved on, not so much.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2013 @ 4:36 am
Posted by anon on Sep. 29, 2013 @ 9:51 am

thousands of SF'ers - perhaps tens of thousands - have become millionaires because of tech and real estate?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 30, 2013 @ 6:29 am

But loves the dirt poor..

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 6:05 am

The city should require a permit for the buses to operate in the city - say $20,000/month to offset some of the problems they create. These funds could help subsidize those displaced and help with "low cost" housing.

Running one bus back and forth from SF to San Jose costs about $20,000 per month to operate..

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

Or would the policy be discriminatory and illegal?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 29, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

anyone who wants to ride them to the South Bay and back to SF? For the same free fare?

Or are they discriminatory and illegally using dedicated MUNI bus stops?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

those are designated stops for buses.

Likewise they can use a bus lane.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

Those stops are for MUNI (and maybe Samtrans) buses, not private ones like Google and casino buses.

What about their discriminatory rider policies? You didn't address that in your incorrect response.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

they are discriminatory between slightly different types of buses.

Discriminatory rider policies? Are you kidding? A bus for google employees is for google employees. It only goes to Mountain View. WTF are you smoking?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

Maybe building apartments will help, also keep in mind high income units are needed as much as low income units. Low income doesn't mean poor people just means that most people who make 35,000 dollars a year can not afford a 1 bedroom apt in the city.

Means Test for rent controlled units that is a dumb idea, if someone who moved here in 1972 has every right to remind in his or hers rental unit.

Posted by Garrett on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:55 am

But we are more likely to get more market-rate units because they are self-funding, rather than requiring a subsidy as with BMR units.

To the other, if someone is making 250K a year then they should not get rent control regardless of how long they have lived in their unit, as they can easily afford a market-rate rental, and they are depriving a poorer person of that opportunity.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 01, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

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