Most SF residents who get evicted earn less than $50K a year

Data presented to supes shows that people who lose their homes through no fault of their own won't qualify for "middle-class" affordable housing

Sup. London Breed’s plan for affordable housing in the Western Addition got continued until May today, but not before some community activists made a few critical points.

Most people evicted in the city can't afford the Breed-Safai "affordable housing."
Most people evicted in the city can’t afford the Breed-Safai “affordable housing.”

A series of speakers complained that Breed had not met with them and that they hoped that she would sit down over the next few weeks and listen to their concerns. Sup. Aaron Peskin, who was chairing the Land Use Committee hearing today, said he hoped that everyone could come together and find a solution – but that’s going to be a bit tricky, since any solution the community groups will support is going to cost developers a lot more money.

The other critical point came from Jennifer Fieber, political campaign director for the SF Tenants Union. Fieber noted that 69 percent of all tenants who reported facing no-fault evictions in the city earned less than $50,000 a year, and 25 percent had income of less than $30,000.

That’s a staggering figure when you look at the competing plans for affordable housing, including Breed’s Divisadero Street proposal.

The way that Breed and Sup. Ahsha Safai want to spin it, there’s a need for “middle-class” housing so severe that it’s okay to take affordable units away from lower-income people to make sure that those earning as much as $150,000 a year get their share.

It’s absolutely true that middle-class people are being driven from the city, and that San Francisco is vastly behind in its efforts to build housing for its own workforce. We have a severe teacher shortage in the public schools because teachers (especially entry-level teachers) can’t afford to live here. Unionized hotel workers, public employees, and health-care workers who earn middle-class wages are driven to live in far-flung suburbs.

The plan for Divis would allow the majority of the new “affordable” housing to go to people with household incomes of between $129,000 a year and $150,000 a year. That, of course, means the developers have to pay less in subsidies, since those apartments or condos would go for much closer to market rate.

But let’s look for a moment, as Fieber did, at the people who have lived in this city for years and are now getting forced out by evictions. It’s certainly worth arguing that our affordable housing policies should in part address their needs; that’s what protecting vulnerable communities is all about.

And she points out that preserving existing rent-controlled housing – that is, stopping the epidemic of evictions driven by current city policies – saves the cost of building new affordable housing.

“The population living under rent control mirrors the demographics of those qualifying for the city’s Affordable Housing Program,” a report she did for the Tenants Union, based on surveys and data from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project notes. “Rent control has allowed residents with diverse incomes to remain in the city without the expense to the city of building affordable housing.”

She also cites US Census figures from 2010 (admittedly out of date, but still relevant) showing that 71 percent of San Francisco households earn less than 150 percent of the region’s Average Median Income.

That’s consistent with what city figures showed for the area around Divis that’s the subject of Breed’s plan. The median income in the Western Addition is about $58,000 a year.

So the average tenant who gets evicted, and the average resident of the area in question, can’t afford the majority of what Breed’s plan could call “affordable housing.”

The debate continues.


  1. That sounds suspiciously like “There are no facts”. YES, THERE ARE FACTS AND YES THERE ARE SOME GROUPS COMMITTED TO BRINGING FACTS INTO THE DISCUSSION. Jane Hardberry’s nihilistic view is akin to Trump’s. There are actors who enliven the discussion with actual facts, with actual non-partisan stands that aim to solve problems, not merely to push one political agenda.

  2. That would be a good thing. Nobody else ever collects data from tenants. I hope they collect lots of data from tenants – their clients. tenants represent a large percentage of the city’s residents. Why not believe them – when you believe somebody else? Confirmation bias, nothing else…

  3. “The other critical point came from Jennifer Fieber, political campaign
    director for the SF Tenants Union. Fieber noted that 69 percent of all
    tenants who reported facing no-fault evictions in the city earned less
    than $50,000 a year, and 25 percent had income of less than $30,000.”

    It is always important to not take at face value claims like this one from advocacy groups. Even assuming that Ms. Fieber is not embroidering data to make her political point, this is anecdotal information “reported” by individuals to the Tenants Union.

  4. The bill was “tabled” and will be taken up again in the next legislative session where it will most likely not pass. Chui does not expect it to pass. The bill is the beginning of organizing to put a Costa Hawkins repeal initiative on the 2018 ballot. (And also for Chiu to pander to his constituency.)

    I know none of you here will accept this–particularly coming from a small SF landlord–but allowing vacancy control will destroy rental housing in SF. Luckily I can and will Ellis my tenants out before November, 2018 as I can sell my two properties as single family homes. This will probably happen to smaller multi-unit properties that can become TIC’s as well. The larger multi-unit properties will plummet in value and be sold to irresponsible bottom feeding slumlords as we saw happen when the Supervisors enacted restrictive legislation on SRO’s.

  5. It’s a big leap from scrutinizing a flood of market rate luxury housing, that was exacerbating the crises, to the canned accusations you’re making.

    No such thing as prop tax protection, you’re either paying property tax, or you’re not.

    Not even income properties are guaranteed an annual return.

  6. This bill was already pulled last week because it lacked support. You guys are incompetent organizers.

  7. Good lord. Jennifer Fieber is such an idiot, evidently she just discovered what a “median” is.

  8. Ok, I’m game.

    “(Breed’s plan) it’s okay to take affordable units away from lower-income people” – TR

    Breeds plan calls for an up zoning of this area – allowing the creation of more units than currently. So in the case of 650 Divisadero, they go from 16 U (with 12-15%”affordable” @ <55%AMI, or 1-2 U's), to 64 U's with 6% "affordable" @ <55%AMI – or 4U's (the other 12 U's going to higher AMI percentiles). To me, that's an INCREASE for lower-income people – not 'taking away'.

    Maybe you have another explanation?

  9. Maybe he hasn’t “prevented” building (like he had the power to do so); but he’s supported every Moratorium and railed against any attempt to increase building of at least market rate, and, iirc, some with large “affordable” components.

    As for a home being an “investment”: its not like “income property”, but home ownership is an “investment” – an investment in not getting OMI’d or kicked out for other reasons of the owner. And, yes, in SF, its been a pretty good investment over the last 50 yrs, if not just for the prop tax protection and the ability to do with it as you wish (within V proscribed parameters). In this sense, the value increases.

    With income property, the investment is expected to yield an annual return (and hoped-for capital appreciation). True, a home is not like that.

  10. What makes you continue to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world?

    Granted, its getting less and less feasible to find good, cheap housing; there are all kinds of compromises: space, climate, locations/neighborhood, amenities in the home; distance from jobs & services, crime … . Thinking about ‘retiring’ (away from SF), so I checked CL for Gulfport MS area. Still have to pay $700/, though you get 2BRs in a trailer, but a ways outside of town … so you probably need a car … .

    And yet immigrants come to America and get work and build a life – out of nothing! Americans? It does suck to be poor.

  11. “If I thought building more market-rate housing would bring prices down, I would fully support it. But the evidence suggests otherwise.”

    From 2009-2015, San Francisco added 123,000 jobs, 50,000 residents, and 12,000 housing units. In 2015, the entire Bay Area added 133,000 jobs and 16,000 units of housing.

    How well has that worked out, Tim?

  12. Personally I have nothing against rich people living in SF. Is there a city in the Bay Area you would consider a model? Or a city anywhere in the US for that matter. On what basis would it be better than SF?

  13. I have been here 75 years and have seen a lot of change; some good, some bad. You can’t go home again. I learned over 50 years ago, after being OMI evicted, that the only way not to get priced out was to own, and that owning requires major sacrifices. Most are not willing to sacrifice lifestyle. Staying in the City was not the highest priority. Most everyone I knew, friends and relatives, left the City. I guess you could say they were “priced out.” They could not find desirable, suitable, acceptable housing and/or neighborhood they could afford. Many “sold out” to find better housing in a nicer environment outside the City, or their jobs moved out of the City.

    I question what the affordable housing schemes will accomplish for the greater good. They may do more harm than good.

  14. A large percentage of SF residents are below poverty and the need for low income housing is far greater. Ride the bus, you can see that most people using public transit (during non-commute hours) are barely getting by. Many will ride for over an hour just to save a couple of dollars on groceries. ( Low income people can get free bus passes, a huge help from the City). I waited 6 years for an apartment in public housing, 3 years for another low income apartment. How are you supposed to live when half your meager income goes to rent?

  15. “He still has a financial incentive to prevent building.”

    It’s disturbing anyone is this naive.

    He hasn’t prevented building, btw.

    You’re also conflating the idea that a home is a good investment, with purchasing real estate for an investment. The mindset is entirely different.

  16. I too don’t think Tim is motivated by rising home values. (and if Prop 13 weren’t in place, I’d be sure of it!).

    I think he’s motivated by changes he sees in the City he knew and doesn’t like those changes. But you should also consider that he hasn’t really changed his mind since he got here 35 yrs ago, so there’s that.

    I myself am beginning to swing to that point of view which decries so many changes. As prices escalate and Mercedes become more and more the norm; and as support services switch from the 50cent donut to the $5 cromuffin and there’s no more Kaplans, there is less and less space for those w/o $100k incomes. Even a property owner can get ‘priced out’ if what they used to rely upon is no longer there and there are no equivalent substitutes. My folks are buried her (well, in the Golden Gate); I know every street in the City; and I’ve been here for 45 yrs and the reason I came is still extant. I don’t want to leave, but I may feel forced to. But, despite it all, maybe there’d be a silver lining to living elsewhere.

  17. Yeah, I believe that you believe you’ve dedicated all this time and energy toward what you think is best for the city and low income folks. It would be quite the bonkers investment strategy if not. “I’m going to buy a house and slyly advocate for less housing in the city so that my property value would increase” would indeed be a very long-winded and laborious exercise. Remodeling your bathroom would probably be cheaper and easier and garner a relatively higher return. Like I mention below my original post was an attempt to demonstrate how assuming motives doesn’t really get us anywhere, because no matter what you can go back and forth ad infinitum.

    Regarding the evidence, well, to sum it up succinctly: all market-rate housing is currently luxury housing because there wasn’t enough market-rate housing 5-10 years ago. Supply and demand does apply. What’s luxury today very well may be considered affordable five years from now. SF has built very little given the huge population boom, and building is still painfully slow. If preventing market rate housing worked (which SF has been very good at) then we wouldn’t still be #1 most expensive by several hundred dollars.

    Regarding the so-called eviction crisis: the evidence suggests otherwise given (like another poster here pointed out) evictions are down as more units have opened up. And even at their peak it was a small amount given the absolutely massive swing in the market (which you can thank robust and rigid tenant protections that are already in place for). I’m one of those evictees and I don’t even call it a crisis. Housing crisis? Yes. Eviction crisis? Spin.

  18. Funny, cuz housing prices and the costs to rent have started to come down, not that that is something you’d report on. And you say that you don’t want to live in a city full of rich people yet you crap on every proposal to lend a hand to those in the SF middle. Any attempt is a war on the poor. Sorry if some of us feel that there should be economic diversity in the City, or that we feel that middle class friends could use an assist in owning a home so as not to have to flee SF to find one or to send their kid to a decent school.

  19. Folks: Does it ever occur to any of you that I might support policies because I think they are best for the city (esp. for low-income people) and not because of financial self-interest? Seriously. As I have said many times, I would be happy if housing prices fell in this city; I don’t want to live in a city full of rich people. If I thought building more market-rate housing would bring prices down, I would fully support it. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

  20. Most homeowners I know want to protect their quality of life which would be negatively impacted by changes in their neighborhood. They did not buy their house to make money.

  21. I don’t believe the the Tenant’s Union numbers. It may represent their clients but not all who were evicted.

  22. Tim can benefit from the home ownership only if he leave SF. Which people hate newcomers? I don’t.

  23. Show me the numbers. I don’t believe the data from the Tenant’s Union. It may represent those who are clients of the union. I would like to see the data and the collection method.

  24. I’m not, not saying you did either. I’m (admittedly poorly) trying to demonstrate how they don’t work for either side of this.

  25. Well then there you go, my sweeping generalization doesn’t apply to you, just like the sweeping generalizations about the opposition don’t apply either. Point is that the discussion about housing should be rooted in facts, economic analysis, precedents, and statistics, not “preserving the culture”, “protecting the vulnerable”, or fighting “the man”.

    I could attack you and paint you as a someone who is safely cemented near Divis and doesn’t want to see more $6 croissant shops opening up because you hate change, are nostalgic, whatever, but that doesn’t get us anywhere.

  26. Well yeah, I know that eviction notices are not a perfect indicator. Although I would note that while you describe possible ‘evictions’ without a notice there are also many provable notices without a subsequent eviction.

    But bottom line is that your landlord wants your sorry rent controlled butt out of his/her building so you need to take responsibility for conduct above reproach, which certainly includes timely payment of rent.

    And if the landlord bullies you while you are on the right side of the law, and you leave without even forcing an eviction notice to be filed….then you weren’t evicted, you moved.

  27. Your reasoning is laughable. I’m a rent controlled tenant who lives a block and a half off Divisadero and your criteria doesn’t apply to me. Techies are individuals — some I like, some I don’t. It’s the large tech and sharing economy corporations, and the city’s response to them, that I dislike.

    Also, Steinle was used as a red herring and Canada was not.

  28. It’s important to remember most people leave without going through eviction once the landlord leans on them. I’m rent controlled in the western addition and my friend around the corner — who’s also rent controlled and has been in his spot 15 years — just took what I would consider a very small payout to leave after his landlord threatened to evict him for late payments. He’d barely been late and had never received a “pay or quit” notice until recently — he would have won easily if it had gone to court.

    I don’t think you’ll be shocked to learn he’s not relocating in district 5, or SF.

  29. I don’t think that’s how it works as I did have a friend go through the process. If she’s not in the bracket she will not get approved for the BMR financing. Also, debt ratios have to be appropriate.

  30. He still has a financial incentive to prevent building. Density anywhere in the city would be detrimental to a homeowner.

  31. I am highly dubious on just about everything Tim says but I always think that the “Tim is a rich homeowner” line is sort of bogus.

    The number of 1 and 2 family homes in the city is more or less set unless we fill in the Bay or Golden Gate Park. I think it is the condo owners that have a concern about new building. Condos don’t really have much in the way of quaint charm. If there is a new building going up down the street and it has high speed fiber in every room and a gym and a roof deck then yes, that’s going to be preferred over the unit you bought in 1998.Not so much an issues with one and two family homes.

  32. There are two types of people on Tim’s side here. It’s time to start talking about them the same way they talk about developers and evil landlords.

    1. People like Tim who already own and have a substantial financial investment that is only to grow if Tim’s wishes came true; their incentive is less building, less competition, higher value home(s).
    2. People who just plain hate the newcomers, or really anyone who moved here after 2011; they’re the ones who are either wrapped up in nostalgia or blame their own personal/financial/professional problems on “the other”. Alternatively, they could just be annoyed at the newcomers and outright hate them, for no tangible reason other than they’re different than the people who came before.

    Sort of like how Republicans fall into those two categories. They’re either filthy stinkin rich and directly profit from the destruction of the Earth (think Texas Oil Guy), or they’re essentially middle-low income and blame the foreign “invader” for their problems (think semi-racist Arizonan guy).

    Like the Republicans, the anti-housing people need a victim. For Trump, its people like Kate Steinle. For Tim, it’s people like Iris Canada. It’s pretty obvious at this point. These activists think they’re progressive, when really they’re just as much of haters as the red-state-folk.

  33. “The plan for Divis would allow the majority of the new “affordable” housing to go to people with household incomes of between $129,000 a year and $150,000 a year.”

    According to this statement, Supervisor Breed would be eligible for “affordable” housing because her salary as Supervisor is below this limit.

  34. One of the main tenets of the ‘Lies, damm lies and statistics’ thing is that you only mention percentages if the absolute totals are low.

    According to the SF Rent board the number of no fault eviction notices served for the 12 months ending Feb 28 was 624 (397 OMI, 4 condo conversion, 8 demolish, 56 capital improvement, 32 other).

    These are just notices, the number of actual evictions is some subset of the 624.

    SO 624, 69% of which is 430. Too many and we need to do what we can to help. But is designing city wide building policies around this relatively small number of people the best way to help?

    BTW, the comparable number of no fault evictions for the prior year period was 997. 48 Hills has written a lot about the eviction ‘epidemic’ so I’m somewhat surprised that they haven’t written about the good news of a 37% drop year over year!

  35. What percentage of the tenants evicted with income less than 50k also receive Section 8 housing subsidy?

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