Public housing and SRO residents voiced concerns about a lack of “step up” housing in the city, which provides a path for people to move into better housing. In other words, they feel trapped in sub-par, often tiny units.
Landlord harassment, Ellis Act evictions and overcrowding in immigrant housing are also among the issues facing the neighborhood, said District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who attended the convention.
It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach to find a solution, Kim said, and added that she’s working on legislation that would set a goal for maintaining at least 30 percent affordable housing in District 6 and require a conditional use permit for market-rate housing.
However, even people paying market rate prices are starting to feel priced out as well, Kim said. “There is a greater identification with tenant’s issues” among higher income renters.
So, the very economics that are pricing out poor people could actually begin to unite tenants of different income levels. Although there didn’t appear to be any high-income tenants at the convention, the effects could be seen in the November election, when affordable housing advocates hope to have an initiative on the ballot.
The details of that measure will be fleshed out at a citywide tenant convention Feb. 8, at 1pm, Tenderloin Elementary, 627 Turk.
Some of the ideas tossed around at the SOMA/Tenderloin convention included taxing excessive rent above a set level, curbing speculation, demanding more affordable housing, repealing the payroll tax break on mid-Market to fund the Community Land Trust, increasing relocation fees in no-fault evictions (such as Ellis Act evictions) and giving neighborhoods more of say in development projects.
The group voted to send to the citywide convention a proposal for an anti-speculation tax, which got tremendous support at the Haight-Richmond convention, along with an increase in the relocation fees for Ellis Act evictions. Those two measures alone, some tenant advocates say, could significantly slow down the out-of-control wave of Ellis evictions and provide a lot more protection for local renters.
Other ideas headed to the citywide convention: An excessive-rent tax and a repeal of the Mid-Market tax breaks, with the money going to affordable housing.
Once a haven for poor artists, SOMA is still known for warehouses that have been subdivided into smaller units with standard common spaces such as a kitchen, bathrooms and living room. However, warehouses are technically commercial spaces and many landlords knowingly rent them out to live-in tenants.
That’s a serious threat to the neighborhood, since units that aren’t up to local codes and are technically illegal are ripe for evictions. Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Chiu have both introduced legislation aimed at either encouraging building new in-law units or making illegal units legal, but it’s not clear where these Soma units fall into the mix.
So the Feb. 8 citywide convention will have plenty of good ideas, and it’s almost certain that the November election will be defined in part by a major tenant initiative. The only question remaining is how far the tenant movement wants to push – and how hard the landlords will fight back.