Low-income tenants face possible eviction at Parkmerced

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At least nine eviction proceedings have started at the Parkmerced housing complex, the site of a controversial new housing development, in response to an effort by the property management company to collect back payments on rent and utility bills, the Guardian has learned.

In recent months, nearly 200 residents received official notices warning that they would face eviction if they did not take steps to bring their accounts current within three days, according to Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. About 80 three-day notices were issued to tenants who are on Section 8, a federal low-income housing assistance program that subsidizes rental payments using public funds provided by the local housing authority.

"They're extremely low-income renters, and they're suddenly being asked to pay large balances," Shortt explained. "It's blood from a turnip." Most of the amounts owed ranged between $600 and $800, she added.

Shortt said that while some tenants were being allowed to set up payment plans, this measure wasn't guaranteed for every tenant attempting to address the problem within the three-day timeframe. And she was skeptical that the payment-plan arrangements being presented by management were realistic in every case.

"I don't know if Parkmerced is doing anything illegal," Shortt said, acknowledging that she was receiving conflicting accounts of the situation. "But they're executing something about legitimate recovery of money in an unfair manner. To allow people to slide for years and suddenly come at them for back bills is a one-way ticket for eviction."

The Guardian was unable to reach Stellar Management, the real-estate management company at Parkmerced, but Shortt said she had spoken with Stellar representatives on behalf of tenants who were contacting the Housing Rights Committee in a panic.

Stellar representative Bryce Boddie explained the situation to her by saying a previous property management company had left billing records in disarray, and the company was finally getting around to straightening out its books by demanding payments that had long since been owed. "Their contention was that they basically decided it was time to clean house and recoup payments," she said. Shortt said she'd also been told that Stellar had come under pressure from Fortress Investment Group, a firm that took ownership of the property last year, to get payments in order.

But P.J. Johnston, a public relations representative for Parkmerced, rejected that account, saying, "We absolutely follow up with residents who are not paying their bills." Johnston said the number of three-day notices served this year were in keeping with last year, indicating that there had been no drastic changes in policy since the approval of the new housing project. He did not know how many Section 8 tenants received the warning notices in 2010. "Whether someone is a Section 8 certificate holder or just a regular resident, everybody's got to pay their rent," he said.

Johnston bristled at the criticism that renters were being asked to fork over unrealistically high sums on the spot for payments that had lapsed for long periods, saying, "If we had moved swiftly to evict residents sooner, we'd be hearing that we didn't give them a chance."

The issue comes on the heels of Board of Supervisors approval for a controversial housing development project at Parkmerced that tenant groups opposed because they felt it didn't go far enough to protect renters. A development agreement negotiated between Parkmerced Investors and the city guarantees that rent-controlled tenants will be able to move into brand-new units at the same rent-controlled rate once the old units are demolished. Some residents are suspicious that management's decision to issue three-day notices and take steps to evict tenants who cannot pay is a strategy for skirting these requirements.

Shortt said she couldn't be sure that this was the case, but worried nevertheless that low-income tenants could wind up being tossed out of Parkmerced, which is just the scenario that tenant advocates had feared. "The end result really is in clear conflict with the spirit of negotiations and tenant protections," she said.

Comments

A completely different case for now maybe. It won't be for long if we implement your plan. The Soviet system didn't burst forth as a full-fledged tyranny. It happened gradually over time. As for First Come First Serve, that would open the door for widespread buying and selling of positions in the queue. The people you are concerned with would have difficulty turn down a wad of money being flashed in their face by some wealthy individual looking to insure better living quarters for himself.

Your heart is in the right place, but your ideas have been tried before. They won't work. Human nature prevents it.

Posted by RamRod on Oct. 16, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

Again, nonsense. Cuba has had housing as a right for decades and I haven't heard of any rampant problems. Whatever they are doing seems to be working pretty well.

Will some people use their wealth to game the system. Of course. But the overall benefit outweighs the problems. I would far rather be guaranteed a home even if I get screwed by gaming and get one of the marginal ones, than live in our current system which puts thousands of people on the street. It is better to house everyone.

Finally, your comparison of socialized housing to the entire Soviet centralized state communist enterprise is laughable. We are only talking about housing, which should be socialized just as health care should.

The Soviet system socialized -everything- and under centralized hierarchical control. We are clearly not discussing such an over arching change.

Your red scare argument, is a red herring.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 17, 2011 @ 8:39 am

Why not go to Cuba then, Eric.

You have such a silly and unrealsitic view of the world. No renter in this country has a gun to their head forcing them to rent from these evil landlords. It sounds real warm and fuzzy that people should be able to live at cost in these houses. However, what is in it for the landlords to go through the PITA of dealing with tenants and their filth. Socialism brings no incentives with it, there is no reason to try and make your or the countries life better since you cannot achieve anything more than what has been dictated by the government.

I ahte to burst your little ignorant bubble, but there is not a whole lot of profit in rental property. Sure their are slumlords that own quite a few properties, but no one is forced to live there. Most rental properties are owned by individuals looking for income later from these, and some equity. Not one single person is stopped from doing this. Factor in the sickening interest paid to a loan, taxes, insurance, water/sewer, fire detection, maintenance of EVERYTHING....and you are left with shit. Oh, I forgot to mention that every penny collected as rent is fully taxable in the bracket you are in. If someone is making 200,000 in rent, they get almost half taken by the federal government and state government. That tax money goes right back into the country.

But I'll stop there. I will never change a mind of someone so bitter and deluded. You don;t like to rent or don't like landlords? Then buy a house.

Posted by SoTM on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

For all his posturing, he wouldn't last 5 minutes in a communist state, and he knows it. They know exactly how to suppress dissenting voices like his there.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

The fact that you see everyone who challenges capital and neo-liberalism as a communist or communist sympathizer, shows how deeply uneducated you are about both economics and political philosophy.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

Actually I am fully aware of the positives and negatives of the Cuban system, and have indeed considered moving there. However, I was born in California, am deeply Californian at heart, and do not want to leave my home. I'd rather change California to make it more like Cuba, than leave to get away from California's shortcomings.

By the way, Cuba just changed it laws to allow individual home residents to own and sell both their home, and one vacation house.

As to your contention that rental property is not profitable, that is by far one of the most hilarious things I have ever read.

Rental property is -massively- profitable.

Perhaps you are just too stupid (and/or too moral) to understand how to make a profit as a landlord...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 4:11 pm