Mayor Lee responds to political furor with more funding to fight evictions

This map of Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco was circulated by the Guardian and other starting in April.

We’re not sure whether it was the high-profile recent protests against the eviction of the Lee family, our well-read “City Hall must address rising rents” editorial or eviction and gentrification coverage last week, our earlier focus on record eviction rates, or just the growing view that City Hall is too friendly to landlords and neglectful of tenants, but the Mayor’s Office has finally awoken to the biggest issue facing this city.

With skyrocketing rents -- and with increasingly common efforts by the landlords of rent-controlled apartments to take advantage of that market by forcing out their tenants -- Mayor Lee this afternoon announced that he’s tripling funding to fight illegal Ellis Act evictions, making populist statements along the way.

Now, spending an additional $700,000 to fight greedy, deep-pocketed landlords is not exactly going to change the playing field, but it’s a nice gesture and an indicator that Mayor Lee is starting to notice the problem. Hopefully, with pressure by progressive politicians and activists, this will be just the first of many such actions.

His press releases follows in it entirety:



San Francisco to increase resources to support residents and families affected by illegal Ellis Act evictions and releases Eviction Prevention Funding from Housing Trust Fund

San Francisco, CA—Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced San Francisco will triple the amount of funding to prevent illegal Ellis Act evictions and that the City will release $700,000 in funding for other eviction prevention services from the Housing Trust Fund.

“San Francisco must remain a viable place to live and work for people at all levels of the economic spectrum,” said Mayor Lee. “That’s why I am providing additional resources to stop unlawful evictions and provide tenant counseling for our residents, so that San Francisco remains a City for the 100 percent.”

The Human Services Agency (HSA) currently provides nearly $8 million in homeless prevention and eviction defense services, an increase of $1.3 million from last year’s budget. In this year’s budget, the City was providing nearly $125,000 to fund free legal advice and represent 55 San Francisco families who have been affected by illegal Ellis Act eviction threats. Today, Mayor Lee tripled the amount of funding with an additional $250,000, which will immediately be available to eligible organizations that provide Ellis Act prevention legal work and will help more families and people at all levels of the economic spectrum remain in San Francisco.

“Providing resources to stop unlawful evictions has proven to be one of the most effective strategies to prevent displacement and homelessness in our City,” said Trent Rhorer, Director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency. “This additional $250,000 will help keep San Francisco families in their homes.”

The Mayor’s Office of Housing will also provide $700,000, from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, to fund tenant counseling services. This is a 63 percent increase in funding and brings the total amount to more than $2.3 million in eviction prevention services from the Mayor’s Office of Housing. These additional resources will be distributed to community based organizations specifically expanding legal representation for individuals facing eviction; rental assistance to individuals and families who are currently homeless or are struggling to keep their current rental housing; and to provide outreach to San Franciscans to better inform them about their legal rights.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing has prioritized eviction prevention services and funds activities including legal services, tenant counseling, rental assistance, move-in assistance, know your rights trainings, and other types of tenant support.  Services are offered through a diverse group of community based organizations that reach San Francisco's many communities including seniors, people with disabilities, immigrants, the homeless and families.

The HSA will issue an ‘Invitation to Bid’ this week so eligible organizations can apply and use the HSA funding to expand their legal services in order for them to be available to vulnerable tenants within 30 days. It is anticipated that the additional HSA funds will help at least 150 households receive legal advice and representation.