Tenants win major victory over speculators

Fewer bill stops landlords from passing debt and tax costs along to their tenants

San Francisco tenants won a major victory today when the supes – unanimously – agreed to stop speculators like Veritas from buying buildings and passing along their inflated mortgage costs and taxes to their tenants.

The bill by Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer comes in part in response to press coverage of Veritas, which has become the city’s largest landlord.

Tenants rally at City Hall to stop speculators from raising the rent

As Fewer and Sup. Jeff Sheehy, a cosponsor of the bill, pointed out in a press conference and then at the board, speculators have been buying up rent-controlled buildings “at a price that doesn’t pencil out unless you get rid of the tenants,” in Sheehy’s words.

Then they try to get rid of long-term renters by jacking up the rent to cover the costs of the high debt service.

Fewer noted that she is also a landlord – and that she is able to deduct mortgage and local property tax costs from her federal returns. Tenants get no such benefit.

So why should the renters have to pay for the debt a speculator takes on in paying too much for a rent-controlled building?

The fact that this passed without dissent is in part a credit to Fewer, who did the work of crafting it, in part due to the election year (none of the incumbent supes want to be on the side of speculators like Veritas) — and in large part because the Housing Rights Committee, the Tenants Union, and the Affordable Housing Alliance organized, fought, and brought this issue to the point where elected officials couldn’t ignore it.

The measure might well prevent some evictions – and help the homeless problem. Not a bad outcome.