The only two ways out of the eviction crisis

Either we treat housing as a tightly regulated utility, or we take it out of the speculative private sector altogether. If there's another option that works, I don't know what it is

We are all talking this week about the eviction of seniors, about how San Francisco has become such a hostile place for long-time residents. We are talking about how so many of the young people who have in the past brought new life to the city (the ones who aren’t rich, anyway) are now talking about leaving – and I think it’s safe to say than much of the current generation of young people looking to make a start in the dynamic US city are going somewhere else. You just can’t afford to come to SF and start life – not without a trust fund or a high-paying job.

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I have always said that we can’t solve this problem just by looking at housing supply, that the demand side is also a factor. You can’t decide to become the finance and real-estate capital of the West Coast without making sure the developers who built the highrise offices also provided housing (huge planning mistake in the 1970s and 1980s leading to suburban sprawl, an early housing-cost boom, traffic problems, and underfunded transit). And you can’t decide to be the tech capital of the world without understanding that there’s not enough living space for all the people who are going to arrive here from someplace else to take those tech jobs.

It’s astounding, the failure of local urban planning. It’s as if the only thing that matters is creating jobs (mostly for people who don’t live here) and ensuring developer profits, and the consequences for housing, transit, and infrastructure don’t count.

I have been having these talks with local housing activists, and we can demand an increase in the percentage of affordable housing in market-rate development, which is good. We can use whatever resources we can wrangle to build more permanently affordable housing, which we need to do. We can fight evictions, which we have to do. All of that will help.

But in the long term, I can think of only two ways to get out of the eviction crisis: regulate housing as a public utility, or take it entirely out of the speculative private market.

 

The public-utility model

If the state Legislature were willing to go along, we could block a lot of evictions and create effective rent control. We could start treating housing as a public utility, not a commodity.

That’s what some cities did in the 1980s, when they established rent control that applies to vacant apartments. Berkeley, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica set base rents for all housing units, which would never rise by more than an annual inflation-based adjustment, no matter who lived there. Tight regulation kept rents low in those popular cities, and it was not only difficult but pointless to try to do a no-fault eviction. No money in it.

Essentially, those cities said housing was a human right, and that as long as it was in the private sector, the market had to be tightly controlled. Landlords were allowed to make a profit, but not unlimited profit.

Landlords who howled about the concept that housing would fall into disrepair were blowing smoke. Those cities did just fine under strict rent regulation. Landlords who didn’t maintain their units were cited. Very few buildings were ever abandoned – and under serious housing regulations, the city should have the right to seize those properties anyway.

The landlords went all the way to the US Supreme Court to try to block effective rent control, and failed. Starting in the mid-1980s, they went to the state Legislature year after year to outlaw rent controls on vacant apartments. Every year, their bill passed out of the state Assembly. Every year, it got to the state Senate, were David Roberti was the president pro-tem, representing West Hollywood. Every year, Robert refused to allow the bill to come to the floor (where it almost certainly would have passed.)

Then term limits forced Roberti out in 1994, and a year later, the bill became law.

I talked to Roberti a few months ago, and he’s still proud of what he did to save affordable housing for a decade. “It wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” he said. But he wasn’t there to stop it forever.

The Costa-Hawkins Act outlaws effective rent control and encourages evictions of long-term tenants. It mandates that cities allow rents to rise to market rate whenever a unit becomes vacant, forbids rent controls on some types of housing, and bans all rent control on buildings constructed after 1995.

Landlord advocates said it would encourage developers to build more rental housing, and thus bring prices down. Note how well that’s worked.

Now Tenants Together, a statewide organizing group, is getting a lot of traction on efforts to change the pro-landlord climate in the state Legislature. A Santa Monica legislator has introduce a bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins, and even the California Apartment Association is saying it could pass.

If it does – and that’s still a big if in a very pro-landlord Legislature – then San Francisco will have a political battle over rent control the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1985, when then-Sup. Harry Britt got seven votes for a vacancy-control bill – and then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed it. One more vote on the Board of Supes and we would have had real, working rent control in this town. It was one of the clearest litmus-test issues you could find: You were with the tenants on the biggest agenda item they had, or you were with the landlords. No room for the squishy center to hide.

I’m pretty sure that six of the current supes would side with the tenants if vacancy control came before the board – and incumbents facing re-election, like Jeff Sheehy, would be forced to take a difficult stand. Could Mayor Ed Lee, a former tenant lawyer, actually veto that law? If it didn’t pass, could anyone running in 2018 who wouldn’t commit to supporting it get elected from any but the most conservative districts?

Who would vote against expanding rent control to all units in the city? (Developers would still build luxury rentals — rent control starts with the existing base rent. So there wouldn’t be much impact on new housing.) But existing tenants would get real protection, the air would escape from the speculative bubble, and most San Franciscans would be way better off.

The social housing model

That’s if the state acts, and functional rent regulation becomes part of the picture. There’s one other long-term solution that will transform San Francisco’s housing situation. We could take as much housing as possible out of the private, for-profit sector, permanently.

There are baby steps now. The city has committed a few million dollars for small-site acquisition, to allow land trusts to buy up properties that would have been sold to private speculators and turn them into permanently affordable housing.

But imagine if our top priority as a city was to buy every unit that goes on the market, to begin a 30-year plan to convert at least half of the existing private rental housing stock into housing owned and operated by nonprofits or land trusts and kept affordable forever.

It’s crazy how much housing costs, which makes my idea crazy expensive. It’s also crazy expensive to build subways, but then-Sup Scott Wiener insisted that the city craft a long-term plan for underground transit, which is the only way to move people quickly around a city with traffic-clogged streets.

I have been talking about this for at least 25 years, and sometimes I want to cry: There was a time when the city could have bought most of the three- and four-unit buildings in the Mission for $100,000, and we didn’t. Now those are going to cost $1 million. Five years from now? Maybe even more.

And yet:

Friends of the Urban Forest reminds us that the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second best time is now. Legend has it that when Julius Caesar was marching his troops through the heat of an Italian summer along the Appian Way, he ordered one of his lieutenants to begin planting trees on both sides of the road, to shade the troops from the sun. “But Caesar,” the junior officer said. “It will take decades for the trees to grow.” Yes, Caesar responded – “that’s why you need to start right away.”

Every piece of residential rental property that is taken out of private, for-profit hands is a housing unit that is saved, a series of evictions that are prevented, a group of tenants who will never face homelessness.

Let’s say the average price for a housing unit that goes on the market today is about $600,000. (That means a median three-unit building goes for $1.8 million.) We can argue figures, but I’m somewhere in the ballpark.

So we can buy 1,000 units for $600 million. Do that for 30 years, and a significant part of the rental stock is out of the private market. If we had started 30 years ago, at least a quarter of all the rental units in the city would be social housing – owned and operated either by nonprofits, or tenant co-ops, or land trusts, where no rents would ever go up beyond the level needed to maintain the place and no tenants would ever be evicted so a landlord could make a profit.

There are plenty of social housing models. Limited-equity co-ops allow people to buy their units, and live there with all the rights of ownership – except the right to sell for a profit. Nonprofit affordable housing is run by community-based organizations who set rents based on income levels. Land trusts allow tenants to buy their units – but again, they can’t be sold for profit.

The city doesn’t have a great record running public housing, but that doesn’t mean the model is all wrong. It just means the city has done a terrible job with it.

In some cities (Hong Kong, Stockholm, others) more than 80 percent of the housing is social housing of one sort or another.

As long as landlords can make huge profits evicting tenants, we are going to fighting building by building. If we can regulate the profit out of evictions, we can slow this down. If we can get the private landlords out of the housing picture entirely, we can turn it around.

Otherwise, we are going to be fighting eviction after eviction for the rest of our natural lives.

I anyone has a better idea that might actually work, I’m listening.

 

  • SnapsMcKenzie

    Nice fantasy talk but Costa-Hawkins is going nowhere. The CA Apartment Association is just making sure it can raise money off the issue. Vacancy control (which is what Tim calls ‘effective rent control’) is an unconstitutional taking of property, forcing a landlord to rent out property at the same rent no matter the inflation rate or length of ownership. It’s completely wrong-headed and, with Gorusch headed to the Supreme Court, is probably moot anyway as this court would not look kindly on it. As a matter of fact, should someone bring a test case, it’s likely a court with Gorusch on it would strike down rent control entirely. So be careful what you wish for Tim. This isn’t the 70s or mid 80s anymore.

    • curiousKulak

      I wouldn’t count on Gorusch – he’s a substitute for Scalia.

      The SCOTUS doesn’t like to mess with RC – too many people affected. And the R’s and Trump aren’t going to wade into that mess.

      No, likely CA will institute VC (vacancy conttrol) and we’ll have to wait a decade or two until if collapses of its own.

      • SnapsMcKenzie

        I disagree. He’s to the right of Scalia and Scalia was ready to ban mandatory union dues before he croaked. Rent control in any form is toast with Gorusch on the court – there was a 5-4 conservative majority before Scalia died, except on social issues like abortion or gay rights (thanks to Kennedy), but Kennedy is a hard-line rightist on economic matters and he’d probably love nothing more than to strike down rent control the first chance he got.

        • curiousKulak

          And yet it was 9-0 on Kelo (eminent domain to profit private developers). To me that was a corollary to rent control – use of public power to benefit private individuals at the expense of other private individuals. But disagree all you’d like. The SCOTUS has forgotten about the little people.

          • SnapsMcKenzie

            I believe we’re saying exactly the same thing.

        • Abram Morris

          Rent control will probably remain a local issue.

      • 4th Gen SF

        Vacancy control? That is HORRIBLE!!!

        • curiousKulak

          For some its horrible. For some its not. Is it a permanent solution? Do you have any examples?

          • 4th Gen SF

            The incentive for LL’s to fix up places after the lower priced renter moves out helps. With vacancy control there is no incentive. You’ll move into the same dump the last renter was in.

          • curiousKulak

            For some, cheap rent is heaven! No matter that ‘you get what you pay for’.

  • curiousKulak

    Most of the “no-fault” evictions are for owner move in (yeah, Ellis too). So you are not really going to stop those, as long as people want to move (or own) here.

    And just because rents don’t go up if someone moves out doesn’t mean that poor/low-income or young people will get first crack. Its just that those six-figure tech bros will now only have to pay $947/ for a 2 BR instead of $5947/. If landlords can’t get a good price, then at least they’ll make sure to get a good tenant.

    I can see the appeal of cutting displacement. But at the same time when you incentivize people to stick around, you are not making space for young artists or anyone else. You’re just making rent cheap for the upper middle class.

    • zutsa

      He and others who bark his same sentiments do not care about others coming in, what people will do in the future, or what the economic or social consequences are 5+ years down the line. They want SF to be preserved in amber for whichever period in time of SF they feel the strongest nostalgia for. They use the numbers of the displaced as figures for their own fear of the invader. The six-figure tech bro is so scary to them that they’ll build huge economic walls around the city to preserve their image of what SF “should” be, despite tech being only 12% of the workforce. Their understanding of business is so childish and simplistic that all landlords are evil people, and making a dime more than you “should” is amoral. Profit is a four letter word.

      “Landlords were allowed to make a profit, but not unlimited profit.” So who decides how much profit is enough profit?

      Take note of the buzzwords and the incredibly watered down economics in the article.

      • curiousKulak

        And I would contend that small(er) landlords – and especially owner occupiers – don’t care so much for the profit as for the ability to control their property; they are likely to want to use it for their own purposes (including moving back in after a time away – without having to go thru hell to do so.

        AFAIK, NYC has always exempted <6U owner occupied props. Perhaps they can do that as they have such a large stock of large bldgs. SF has many, but the majority of its stock is in small bldgs. Thus the 'need' to control everything to appear effective.

        When the only thing you can control about the biggest investment of your life is the initial price and initial occupants, the incentive is to go for the max; and with rules that don't reimburse expenses or costs, you could soon see your 'profit' become a loss.

        • zutsa

          I think a distinction between large property owners and the small(er) landlords you describe makes sense. Like how small businesses are exempt from a lot of the rules and regulations huge corporations are. But like you said, since so much of SF’s housing stock is in the small buildings, and most likely the small landlord, it wouldn’t make enough of an “effect”.

          I think the problem here is the lack of balance. If being a landlord isn’t a profitable business then landlords will come elsewhere. On the other hand, if there aren’t enough tenant protections than the economy itself would collapse as people move away. What Tim describes above means being a landlord in SF would become a charity case. He clearly wants landlords to be at the same level as a social worker. It doesn’t work that way.

      • Cameron Scott

        Wow you have a lot of buzzwords here. Everyone who wants to protect diversity is
        “nostalgic”? Really? Everyone who wants police and teachers and dentists to continue to live in the city is “nostalgic”? You can’t think of any other reasons why it makes sense to have a diverse city with people filling key public functions? You can’t think of any reason why throwing people out of their homes and then criminalizing homelessness is a bad idea? You must not know much about history or geography.

        • zutsa

          There are plenty of reasons to keep key people here, I’m all for a voucher program for teachers to keep their apartments, for example, as a temporary solution. Keeping key people here is important, but it’s also important to make sure that we aren’t making things worse by cementing everyone who has ever signed a 1-year lease in their apartment in whatever artificially low rent they have forever; it removes too much control of the landlord and the market, and skews prices. The reason 1 bedrooms are $3500 a month is because the guy across the hall pays $700 for the same thing, he just happened to arrive 8 years earlier. Arbitrary; doesn’t matter if the $700 guy is a Homeless Outreach Director or a lawyer for Uber, he still pays $700 thanks to rent control. There needs to be a balance.

          “Protecting diversity” is a thinly veiled way of saying “keep *them* out” and I can see right through it. My jabs at the nostalgia come from the incessant demand to bring SF back to the way it was before *they* moved here, which we all know is what Tim and so many other housing activists are talking about. “Make San Francisco Great Again”, ridiculous! I also did not mention the wrongful criminalization of homelessness at all.

          Everyone talks about the person who’s been evicted. No one talks about how many people WOULD HAVE been displaced if it weren’t for tenant protections already in place. I know way more people with rent controlled apartments who are safe than I do people who were displaced. It’s clear the tenant protections work, and the ones who have fallen victim to bullshit Ellis Acts and fake OMI’s only were victimized because the landlords were so significantly incentivized to do so. It’s cause and effect.

          • Don Sebastopol

            There are many who keep their unit who would move if they had to pay market rates. That’s why SF has less of a crisis as measured by the percent of income paid for rent, compared to many other California counties. Many of those who are not lower income and can afford to pay more and would have moved, hold on to their rent controlled units. That drives down the stock and drives up the prices of exempted units making them more unattainable for the lower income. Rent control may help with gentrification. One benefit is that higher income folks with rent control have more money to spend on upscale restaurants and stores which provides jobs for lower-income folks in the neighborhood. One good thing about Ellis is that it provides more owner occupied units in the neighborhood. But there are so few Ellis evictions they may not have much of an impact.

        • Don Sebastopol

          What is protecting diversity? What diversity? Police, teachers and dentist now live in the City. But 62% off all SF workers commute so living in the City is not necessary to work here.

        • 4th Gen SF

          Wait? DENTISTS???? LOLOLOLOL. A poor dentist is making $180k in SF. No worries about dentists in SF.

    • Cameron Scott

      At least 1 in 4 OMI evictions is fake. And there are protections to ensure that landlords don’t only pick white, male, childless tenants. If the city owned the housing, those protections would be even stronger.

      • playland

        How do you enforce an OMI?

        If I say that I need your rental unit because my daughter is going to Berkeley next year but then two months later she gets into Harvard…do I get to rent out the space at market rate?

        • Cameron Scott

          No, as clearly spelled out in the law. Why? Because if you could everybody would make up bullshit scenarios like this one all the time. In fact, they do, and few get caught, even under current law.

        • Don Sebastopol

          They must live there three years.

      • Don Sebastopol

        How do you know 1 in 4 are fake? There were 413 owner move-in evictions in 2016. That is a quarter of one percent of all rentals.

        • zutsa

          NBC news Investigative Unit estimation, not a true figure. He’s right that OMI can be exploited, but you’re also right in that it’s a drop in the hat when you look at the big picture. Surely we can’t manipulate the entire market out of fear of a few incredibly brazen landlords willing to risk their entire livelihood on a fake OMI. Again, it would do more harm than good.

          source: http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/I-Unit-San-Francisco-Landlords-May-Have-Wrongfully-Evicted-Hundreds-of-Tenants-400775391.html

          • Don Sebastopol

            The data may not be totally accurate but I would guess there are some fake owner move-ins. With rent control there is an incentive to cheat. But even so, 100 fake owner move-ins would be 0.04% of all rentals. That is not the cause of the “eviction crisis.” There are many more rentals added than lost due to owner move-in and Ellis combined. They are a drop in the bucket and not the cause of a crisis.

          • Cameron Scott

            There’s no enforcement of OMIs. 10 percent of cases are supposedly investigated, but they’re not. And the 10 percent is randomly chosen, not selected when tenants cry foul. The only punishment is when tenants sue, but most don’t because they’ve had to leave the city. You can claim it’s not a problem all you want but if you look at tenant turnover numbers in SF or if you’ve lived here long enough to see with your own eyes, you’ll know that there has been MASSIVE MASSIVE turnover via no-fault evictions. I don’t know a single long-term renter who hasn’t been evicted in the last 5 years.

          • playland

            I don’t know a single long-term renter who hasn’t been evicted in the last 5 years.

            How many do you know?

            You can’t expect us to believe that the vast majority of long term renters have been evicted in the past 5 years.

            Is that really what you are trying to say?????

          • Cameron Scott

            Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying. It’s also what the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, community groups and several supervisors are saying. It’s what Tim Redmond is saying, too. It’s why several major laws have been on the ballot over the last 8 years trying to contain the situation in a number of different ways. We have a major housing crisis. We have a huge percentage of long-term residents who have had to leave the city. I’m not sure why you all here are so new to that unless it’s because you just moved here or are willfully trying to stick your heads in the sand. Do some research! If you want to know, the information is there. Landlords talk about how hard it is to evict, but it’s 100% not true. Tenants don’t have lawyers. Landlords do. Go sit in the Tenants Union and listen to people’s stories for half a day. And if you won’t listen, then stop blowing hot air around. My last comment here.

          • zutsa

            “Vast majority” would at the very least imply more than 50% of all long-term renters in SF have been evicted, and that’s 100% fake news, alternative fact.

            We do have a major housing crisis, as in there isn’t enough housing. As in, once you’re evicted from your rent controlled apartment (which IS very difficult to do, that is not an alternative fact) you’re left in a market that is incredibly inflated because of *gasp* rent control skewing the market and lack of new housing. Do you see how the regulations that are intended to help are actually hurting? Do you see how the resistance to new housing to keep the outsiders out of SF is actually biting it’s own residents in the ass?

            We are on the same side here!

          • playland

            OK, relax @disqus_6d7GeuGcAN:disqus , relax. I can explain.

            According to the San Francisco Rent Board a grand total of 10,111 eviction notices have been served in the last 5 years. You can see the reports here:

            http://sfrb.org/annual-eviction-reports

            Now those are just the notices, not all of which succeed and they include non payment of rent notices.

            There are approximately 222,000 rental units in San Francisco

            http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/counties/SanFranciscoCounty.htm

            10,111 out of 222,000 is 4.6%.

            So all I am saying is that it is difficult to believe that the “vast majority” have faced evictions when the facts back on planet earth are so different from the claims that you make, thats all. Not saying that you are wrong, just that what you are saying is completely contradicted by the actual facts.

          • Don Sebastopol

            I have looked at the data. There is not a huge percent of long-term renters who have had to leave the City because they were evicted. But it is true that people at all income levels choose to leave the City if they are evicted or their rent goes up. It is a matter of finding a suitable or acceptable home in a suitable or acceptable neighborhood. They are not willing to sacrifice environment or space to stay in the City. If you can’t afford Seacliff you may need to move to Tiburon/Belvedere to find what you want. I can recall one story of two (White) teachers who lived on Diamond Heights that moved to Alameda when their rent went up. One taught school in the Bayview. At the time they could have afforded a place close to work in the Bayview. It probably never crossed their minds to even look there.

            If you listen to the Tenants Union, you are not getting an unbiased view.

          • 4th Gen SF

            I’m not sure why you all here are so new to that unless it’s because you just moved here or are willfully trying to stick your heads in the sand

            Um, the people who have been responding to you have either LIVED here forever, were born here, or have been here for literally decades. If you’re working for the Eviction Mapping Project, you know that Erin came the east coast to rabble rouse. But those of us that were born here (look at my NAME) know what is going on. We kind of really DGAF about you & all the troublemakers tbqh that move here to prove a point. You guys move here all the time & think you’re going to change SF, change the world and you all just wind up being co-opted & with flat tires. Seriously You’re just using your spinner wheels & getting nowhere as you have zero idea how SF really works. SF will & can eat you alive. It’s not lalaland. It’s a tough city.

          • curiousKulak

            “I don’t know a single long-term renter who hasn’t been evicted in the last 5 years.”

            By definition – 5 yrs is hardly a “long term renter” (in my book anyway). I know several on my block (25ys+) who have, of course, not been evicted. Some did get evicted/bought-out. No fake OMIs.

            Again, this is a V risky ownership strategy. I know Angelique (superficially, anyway). She should definitely take advantage of her situation. She could end up owning the place she formerly rented! However, chances are that its ‘complicated’ and the intended person moved in, and then for some reason moved out. However, bringing a case could at least help the one who is living there now. I have little sympathy for LLs who skirt the law to make a buck; it should have stayed vacant the requisite time in such a case.

            I’m not opposed to tighter accountability for folks who do OMIs. But at the same time, it ought to be easier for legitimate folks to be able to move into the property they own; thats hardly the case now.

          • zutsa

            I read the article when it came out, that’s how I knew where you got the 1 out of 4 stat. I know a lot of people that were evicted too, myself included. I also know a lot of people who haven’t been evicted who are under rent control getting a deal of a lifetime. OMI’s are a tiny blip on the radar here, and making things harder for the 99% of landlords that do OMI legitimately so to dissuade the 1% from breaking the law is stupid, all it does is make being a landlord less desirable, which means there’s less rental units on the market, which drives up prices. I’ve seen plenty of small time landlords say they’d rather leave their unit vacant than bring a tenant in because that tenant can literally stay forever, already: “I may want to move into this unit in 2-3 years when my son graduates from college, so I’d rather leave it vacant in that time than deal with the headache of evicting the tenant 2-3 years down the line” Do you see the logical path here? That’s a very reasonable concern for the property owner, and a very common one, especially for homes out in the Sunset and Richmond with vacant in-laws.

            Your concern over OMIs is definitely warranted, it’s bullshit, and the NBC piece does a good job bringing that to light, but we have to be careful not to make things worse when trying to make things better,

          • Don Sebastopol

            There has not been massive no-fault (Ellis, OMI) evictions, less than a half percent of all rentals per year. Most leave the City? I doubt that. I was once OMI evicted and moved next door. I think the average tenure of a renter is around 7 years. 90% of those who move were not evicted or priced out (moved for cheaper housing). Maybe 2% were evicted/foreclosed on. And another 8% move for cheaper housing. However, many do move for better housing or neighborhoods outside the City where they can get more for their money. That is true for many renters when they are ready to buy. Most (the highest percent) of the Ellis, OMI evictions are in White, educated affluent neighborhoods with a lot of 2-4 unit buildings. There are hardly any Ellis evictions in BVHP. I would guess most who are evicted are not low-income.

          • 4th Gen SF

            I don’t know a single long-term renter who hasn’t been evicted in the last 5 years.

            I know plenty who are still here and Don & others here have the stats to back that up. Most people are still here. Sure SOME aren’t but most are.

          • curiousKulak

            Yes. But there are plenty of folks who can’t or won’t pony up the dinero to stay. My brother and sister are testimony to that (’86 & 09). If I sold, its looking more and more likely I’d move. Paying just the taxes on a million dollar condo & HOA are more than most people pay to roommate a flat (i.e. $1700/). It may not get you Rainbow Grocery, but you could probably get some acceptable yoga classes elsewhere.

          • 4th Gen SF

            I love that your source everything with links. Seriously. Good job.

        • Cameron Scott
      • curiousKulak

        Wrongful Eviction carries a v stiff penalty in SF. I find your statement hard to believe. How do you come by the “1 in 4” figure?

        My guess is that City-run housing will look similar to the civil service rolls, where some groups seem to dominate out of proportion to their numbers. I could be wrong. But I think that income exclusion is more at work than a racial motive. Of course, with low, low rents, there’ more of a pool to pick from.

      • 4th Gen SF

        Wait, you think the city would protect WM childless tenants to protect? THIS CITY? LOLOL. OMG. You haven’t lived here long. There’s a reason there’s a big # of GOP gay men in the CASTRO. Sure, not dominant but I know quite a big #

    • Don Sebastopol

      True, a survey conducted by the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, of Santa Monica, showed that most owners are renting to newly arrived young professionals with high incomes. Families, low-income people and the elderly, who are supposed to benefit from rent control, are being shut out.

      • curiousKulak

        And if you have your pick of tenants, you are going to want someone who is financial capable, clean, quiet, and easy to get along with. That could describe “families, low income or seniors”. But you also want someone who won’t stay for the rest of your (or their) life. I’m told this can be done without triggering FHA regs.

        AFAIK, its not against the law to chose a tenant who will move on in a few years. In a sense, its what “renting” is all about – provide temporary accommodations. Not sure who’s responsibility it is to provide life-time home-ownership perks. Guess Tim thinks its the CCSF’s (though he’d luv to make it landlords). So, what do we cut to get the $600,000,000 annually.

        Just don’t make us property owners the only payees for that subsidized (social) housing.

  • Alex

    More pie-in-the-sky crap from Tim that of course leads us nowhere. The NIMBY crowd which prevailed in the late 70s is what caused the housing market in SF and the surrounding Bay Area to become astronomical decades later. At least East Oakland will gentrify.

  • $600M a year to build up the stock of public housing is perfectly manageable. That’s less than 15% of the extra $4-5B revenue a year the tech boom so decried by Tim brings into city coffers compared to a decade ago, to be immediately frittered away in fripperies like $500M over 10 years for bike lanes, and probably no small amount of graft and Parkinson’s Law at work.

    The reality is that the City and its politicians pay lip service the housing crisis, but if you follow the money, you will find it is way down in the list of priorities.

    What I want to see in a mayor worthy of the name is a commitment that San Francisco will not rest until no child is homeless in the city, that everything else is subsidiary to that goal, and that zero-based budgeting will be instituted to ensure that it is met within a year or two. We could learn a lot from that liberal bastion, Salt Lake City, in terms of how to prevent homelessness.

    • curiousKulak

      If you follow the money, it all goes to fat paychecks for City employees.

      And if you follow the money of the future, you’ll find it will be going to the pensions of the fat paycheck collectors.

      But the real estate boom has been good for City coffers. That one can’t deny!

    • 4th Gen SF

      Yes because public housing aka the “housing projects” worked so well in the past. Riiiight.

  • Kraus

    1. Housing development is already treated as a “highly regulated utility” — that’s the problem.
    Can you imagine an ideologue like Tim regulating access to food the same way? — what you’d have would be a famine — i.e., a massive shortage — which is currently what we have with housing in the SF/Bay Area.

    2. Taking housing out of the private sector — ditto. Where exactly are the hundreds of billion$ to come from?

    3. The only viable solution would be to do what we did in SF from 1945 until the early 1970’s — which simply is to build adequate amounts of housing to meet the need. The government is incapable of doing this at the necessary scale — only the private sector is capable of accomplishing this task.

    • 4th Gen SF

      Venezuela, Cuba, NK, USSR all models for the left.

  • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

    Great! Stockholm as an example of excellent housing policy! Right now there is a very real **50 year waitlist** to get housing in stockholm due to their rent/vacancy controls! But thats OK, Tim already has his house so this doesn’t really concern him.

    • curiousKulak

      Tim uses the excuse that young people can’t come here anymore (cuz its expensive), but wants to cement in place anyone who is still here. Unless you want to build a bunch of new housing, that’s a Donald Trump Tax Plan.

      And the piece is not about increasing the housing, its about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

      Vienna is supposedly a model of Social Housing (funny it wasn’t mentioned). But even Vienna has moved to sell off much of that stuff built in the 20’s & 30’s. Whats to prevent that from happening in SF? And all so that you can keep all the cool people who moved here in their twenties, but are now 40/60/80 and are only ‘cool’ in retrospect. Meanwhile, real cool young people can’t move here – in part due to expense, but also cuz all the formerly ‘cool people’ are cemented in the places that would otherwise be available..

      • Don Sebastopol

        What data do we have that young people are not coming here anymore? SF still has the largest percent of young adults compared to other major cities; and even many minor cities. I think only Berkeley has a higher percent.

      • Don Sebastopol

        I just looked it up. Young people are here. The number and percent of those age 25-34 increased from 2010 to 2015; from 164,970 20% in 2010 to 187527 22. 3% in 2015. I am guessing many of those who move here have professional degrees and can qualify for higher paying jobs. Isn’t that the “problem;” too many young talented people moving to the City driving up the prices?

        Of course many of them may also be people who moved here when they were under 25 and just got older. But They are able to stay.

        • Sanchez Resident

          Please bear in mind that the highly paid young people coming to the City are in positions that are not unionized. The decline of union members in the City greatly concerns some of the press.

          • 4th Gen SF

            True but it’s not like SFBG was unionized. Brugmann was against unionizing SFBG lol. He was a lot of hot air.

    • Cameron Scott

      So no one can move to Stockholm? Proof please. You can’t just say “oh, Scandinavia! Things are so bad there!” They’re not bad there according to all the evidence I’ve seen. If you have facts, I’d like to see them.

      • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

        For sure,

        upon further research, it seems like 50 years is not correct, its 20 year long wait list. Anyhow, here are some links below, from what I consider to be reputable sources.

        From the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20160517-this-is-one-city-where-youll-never-find-a-home

        From Quartz: https://qz.com/264418/why-its-nearly-impossible-to-rent-an-apartment-in-stockholm/

        The guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/19/why-stockholm-housing-rules-rent-control-flat

        • zutsa

          But who cares? Tim Redmond and other housing activists and their friends already live here, so who cares about the people 5-10 years down the line that want to move here? They’re native San Franciscans, after all!

          • Don Sebastopol

            No one is prevented from moving here. Anyone can move here who can afford to .

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            “No one is prevented from moving here. Anyone can move here who can afford to”

            I’m pretty sure that is item #3 in Mayor Lee’s secret manifesto.

          • 4th Gen SF

            LOL. The secret manifesto that Tim thinks he has? LOL.

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            No. The one implanted into Mayor Lee’s subconscious by Ron Conway.

          • 4th Gen SF

            Onto your LW talking points I see.

        • 4th Gen SF

          ty & “boom”. And btw, Sweden has a RAPE problem. It IS the rape capital of EU.

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            Onto your right wing talking points I see.

          • 4th Gen SF

            And, so? The truth must be hard to swallow. It is. I’ve been there recently.

    • ScumbreonJones

      Tim has his undertaxed million-dollar home AND a vacation house out of state. Wonder if he pays a vacancy tax on it, or rents it out?

      • Don Sebastopol

        How is that relevant?

        • ScumbreonJones

          It is 100% relevant that a blustering snooty boomer is sitting on valuable assets and wondering why California is too broke to build a socialist utopia.

        • 4th Gen SF

          Well, it’s relevant in that Tim is advocating for the gov’t to take over rental housing & it’s quite hypocritical of him when he’s got those things.

          • Don Sebastopol

            It looks like the government has already taken over rental housing. Owning a home does not disqualify from one having an opinion on housing policy. I don’t see the hypocrisy. However, I don’t agree there is an eviction crisis that needs a policy.

          • ScumbreonJones

            translation: “I am delusional, please ignore my input”

  • It is time, actually past time, for radical solutions to our housing crisis. Tim’s advocacy for public housing is a big step in the right direction.

    • Government Shrinkage

      Yes. I think we should requisition Tim’s house and your house and use them for public good. Let’s try that for 10 or 15 years, and if it’s effective, we’ll extend the policy to all of your friends.

      • Perhaps, Mr. Anonymous Government Shrinkage, you should read the article you are commenting on BEFORE you comment.

        • Government Shrinkage

          I read the article thoroughly, as painful as that was. I was commenting on your and M. Redmond’s impulse to appropriate other people’s property to achieve what you see as a desirable social outcome.

          I was using sarcasm, which may not be the ideal tool when arguing with people who can’t easily reason beyond first order logic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-order_logic).

          Essentially when you are willing to trample over landlords’ right to their property, you are willing to do anything. It’s, as M. Wedmeyer foresaw, the tyranny of the proletariat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship_of_the_proletariat). Another way to say this is that democracy works great until people realize they can vote themselves money.

          This is, of course, not surprising from M. Redmond, who makes part of his living forcing others to subsidize his lifestyle for services they may or may not want (there I am referring to his work for the SEIU).

          Western Europe at large is a great example of this phenomenon, as well as the pitfalls of using liberal memes as substitutes for moral values, and of taking one’s culture for granted. California is on the brink of going there, and people like Messieurs Redmond and yourself are kicking it as hard as you can as it teeters over the abyss.

          • Perhaps, Mr. Anonymous Government Shrinkage, you should also read your own comments before you post them. Where in Tim’s article did he suggest that he wants to “appropriate other people’s property?”

    • 4th Gen SF

      Like Venezuela. Those kinds of radical solutions. Or Cuba. Right?

  • Craig Roche

    The regulated utility model won’t work — there’s no model for thousands of producers to be regulated under a utility model. Likewise, ‘cost’ becomes nebulous — in a free market, landlords attempt to minimize costs for a given level or service. In a utility model, landlords attempt to get the highest costs passed that the regulator will accept… hire their kids, kickbacks, etc., or, alternatively, do no maintenance and run the place into the ground. The people whose lives depend on finding loopholes in the regulations are far more numerous and smarter than the regulation writers. Set the return on capital too low and nobody will invest. Too high and you’ll get a ton of useless investment. The market is quite effective at finding this equilibrium.

    The social housing/land trust/coop model encourages people to stay forever. Also, NYC experience in HDFC coops (which are basically the same thing) has been pretty awful — deferred maintenance, incompetent and fraudulent boards, crumbling buildings, etc. It turns out that building management/being a landlord is an actual professional skill, and that people randomly selected by geography rarely have it.

    • Do Something Nice

      “The social housing/land trust/coop model encourages people to stay forever.”

      What is wrong about that?

      • Craig Roche

        There are issues with intergenerational equity, with the ability to relocate for work, and with the fact that peoples’ need for housing changes as they pass through different stages of life. Nothing is per se wrong with it if your highest goal is to keep people in the same apartment forever, but a system that allocates 3brs near employment centers to 80 year old widows, while families cram into a studio in the outer sunset tends to be perceived as sub-optimal and unfair.

        • curiousKulak

          People that don’t live here don’t vote. So screw ’em.

          What is wrong with that?

  • Do Something Nice

    Nothing seems to go up in value like housing. So if we want to control runaway salaries, runaway taxes and ridiculous operating costs for just about everything, restricting price increases of housing seems like it would have a positive cascading effect upon the economy.

    • zutsa

      Hey be sure to let me know if you catch a 10% raise at any point, we’ll want to make sure the government steps in and reverses it. Don’t want you to have a runaway salary. Oh but your employer did well this past year and can afford to give you a 10% raise? Well he must have runaway sales and profit then. Quick, call the board of supervisors to curb this runaway success!

      What are you talking about?

      • Cynthia

        10% of $50,000 is one thing.

        10% of the take of a 12-unit apartment building is quite another.

        • zutsa

          It’s still 10%. Still requires someone or some entity to decide what is “too much”, and that’s a problem.

          • Cynthia

            Entities decide that all the time. They set tax rates typically higher for people with higher incomes.

            Without that entity you will just have the status quo which in actual fact does favor people with higher incomes.

      • Do Something Nice

        Don’t complain about high salaries in SF government employees if that’s your attitude.

        • zutsa

          I don’t. I’ve had plenty of family and friends that have worked for gov’t in some fashion and the only thing that’s consistent is that they’re underpaid. Just because I comment on these threads in a pro-housing manner doesn’t mean I’m a “don’t tread on me” tax-adverse republican.

          I just think the concept of a “runaway salary” is ridiculous for normal people not working for the government.

    • Government Shrinkage

      Yes. Price controls are well-know to have a positive cascading on the economy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_controls.

      • 4th Gen SF

        Venezuela has price controls. Working out really well there I see.

    • Don Sebastopol

      With price controls you get bread lines.

      • Do Something Nice

        Controlling the price of housing will create bread lines?

        • Don Sebastopol

          The point was that government price controls generally lead to a reduced supply of any product, as socialist governments found out.

  • zutsa

    “If the government controlled housing more, we’d be in better shape” But the government already imposes huge regulations at every turn regarding housing around here compared to other parts of the US, yet SF is the most expensive, by a large margin, for years now. Spend $600m a year for the next 30 years? OK, sounds great, but what about when 10k people want to move to SF in 2032? You don’t give a shit, Tim, because you want the gates to be closed, because you already have a place.

    Can we get a profile of all the tenant activists/”journalists”/pundits and see how many of them currently live in a rent controlled apartment and are getting a great deal? Or, better yet, how many of them own and are profiting directly off of this crisis? Because they are either already safe from the housing crisis or are just plain dumb. These “fixes” are always pure utopic garbage that easily and reliably get debunked in >200 words in the comments. Every time. By multiple nameless people.

    Does no one else see the dog-whistle xenophobia of “examining the demand side” of things? This all boils down to “those people” moving in. “San Franciscans” is code word for anyone who moved here before 2010. Nativism is fucking off the charts in this stupid city, perhaps worse than the reddest of Trump districts, but all the activists have to say is “sanctuary city” and they’re absolved of all harmful generalization and xenophobia. Bullshit.

    • Don Sebastopol

      The gates are not closed. People move here all the time. They do tend to be more talented than average, however. That may not be a “problem.”

  • Don Sebastopol

    What eviction crisis? Ellis and owner move-in evictions are a very small number per year, a fraction of a percent of the total number of rentals.

    Santa Monica has become more not less gentrified since their rent control with more tech and professional workers (percent) than SF.

    • playland

      What eviction crisis? Ellis and owner move-in evictions are a very small number per year, a fraction of a percent of the total number of rentals.

      True…but if you make a map with a decade and a half of evictions, and you draw a big circle around each one it visually looks like a lot.

      • zutsa

        And, even further, if you pick the top 5 or so saddest ones and write a dozen articles each about them, then it looks like landlords are committing a genocide.

        Tenant protections in SF are fine. Housing activists won’t be happy until no one ever has to move, and no one new can move in.

        • curiousKulak

          No, housing activists won’t be happy until people can live here without a job; can pass their rentals down to their “family” (of whatever definition you wish); and not have to pay the cost of any upkeep or tax increases. Oh, and making money :to the extent of your rent”.

          • 4th Gen SF

            They want Venezuela here now. We need to keep fighting against them to stop CA, SF, SFBA from becoming Venezuela.

      • Don Sebastopol

        If you take the cumulative deaths over the past several decades it looks like a quarter of the City is dying.

      • Don Sebastopol

        I have looked at those maps and the data. The highest percent of Ellis and OMI evictions are in White, affluent, educated areas where there are many 2-4 unit buildings with rent control. There are few to none Ellis evictions in BVHP. I would guess many who are evicted are not low-income and don’t leave SF. However, I do know a couple who were evicted from their Inner Sunset house and decided to move to Marin; they got a nicer house for the money, and the commute to his job at UCSF was not all that bad. She could run her small business in Marin. I was OMI evited many years ago and moved next door.

  • Tyro

    Well and good, but keep in mind that our efforts to make public utilities widely available resulted in large shifts and changes to the communities in which they were deployed. No on can argue that rural electrification permanently changed the character of the community, as well as obstructing the views of many homeowners due to power lines.

    Since the #1 goal of housing policy from many people’s perspective is to “preserve the character of the community”, it seems that treating housing like a regulated, widespread utility would come at a cost that many people are unwilling to pay.

  • Bryan Costales

    I am surprised that no one has fought an eviction based on a fundamental right to housing. If the US Supreme court and no national law has been made to override such a right. The CA supreme court could recognize just such a right. Worth a try?

    • 4th Gen SF

      Then, it goes to SCOTUS and that will be the end of rent control anywhere, forever…but I digress…

      • curiousKulak

        Yeah, its one thing to upset hundreds of thousands of renters. Its another thing entirely to guarantee housing for 150,000,000.

        • 4th Gen SF

          The left is not going to stop till we are just like Venezuela, complete with bread lines. Fight them.

    • Brookesia

      A fundamental right to housing and a fundamental right to housing in one of the most expensive U.S. cities are very different issues. One can agree with the former and not the latter.

  • Watson Ladd

    Are you going to support meeting the demand for housing with public money? Or is there no problem so long as the politically favored aren’t being displaced. I’ve got a better plan: upzone all of SF to 6 stories, no setbacks, minimum.

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