Once again, tenant activists are up in arms over a so called epidemic of evictions, “the most severe crisis in 40 years” according to the SF Tenants Union. The reason? The creation of homeownership opportunities in the form of Tenancy-in-Common (TIC) units for people who are now tenants. Any increase in the regulation of TIC units will only make housing in the city less affordable while doing nothing to “protect” tenants.
TICs have become the last entry-level ownership opportunity for San Franciscans who want to own their home instead of renting forever and giving their money to the landlord. This is the American Dream.
Unfortunately, decades of misguided city housing policies, crafted at the behest of tenant activists, have gradually and incrementally made other avenues to homeownership inaccessible or unaffordable for most. These policies include strict limits on condo conversions, a prohibition on mid- to high-density housing in most parts of the city, and the strictest rent control regime in the nation. Among its many other faults, San Francisco-style rent control has made it impossible for many small property owners to maintain and hold on to their buildings because they’re forced to subsidize their long-term tenants. And now, these same tenant advocates would have the city go even further in this direction, making housing even more expensive.
Worst Eviction Crisis in 40 years? Hardly!
Ellis Act Evictions: In 2012-1013 there were 57 Ellis Act petitions impacting 192 units, 15 petitions and 71 units more than the previous year. But Ellis evictions actually peaked in 2004-2005, with 131 petitions for 480 units followed by 100 petitions for 454 units (2005- 2006) and 92 petitions for 393 units in (2007-2008).
OMI Evictions: In 2012-2013 there were 234 units affected by OMI evictions, an increase of 136 over 2011-2012, but way down from the peak of 1997-1998 (1,410), or from 1998-1999 (1,200), 1999-2000 (937), 2000-2001 (991), or even 2001-2002 (594).
Total Eviction Notices: Up from last year’s 1,421 to this year’s 1,934, but down from that same peak in 1997- 2001, when there were 2,836, 2,730, 2,762, and 2,535 notices, respectively.
The greatest increase in evictions has been in the category of “just cause” evictions. So,
contrary to tenant activists’ attempts at fear mongering and hyperbole, statistics clearly show that this is not the worst eviction crisis in 40 years by any stretch of the imagination.
“Affordable Housing” Should Not Be Just for Renters
If the city makes it harder to convert buildings to TICs, most developers and “greedy speculators” won’t be the ones to suffer. They’ll do the city’s bidding, and pass their added costs on to buyers who can afford the resulting higher prices. This means that instead of creating affordable homeownership opportunities for people whose investment strengthens our city, city policies are doing just the opposite. When we talk about affordable housing, we should be talking about affordable housing for renters and homeowners.
In their “Policy Agenda to Halt Housing Speculation,” the Tenants Union and its allies pretend to care about the physical safety and financial security of TIC owners, but their arguments are specious. What they really want is to ensure that tenants remain tenants,
and to make it tougher still for people to own their own homes—a bad direction for everyone. The city should be very cautious in continuing any further down the Tenants Union’s prescribed path. Already, the recent changes in the condo conversion laws are working to make housing less affordable for everyone.
We agree that abuses of the law by anyone, be they developers or tenants, should be curbed. But we believe that abuses occur in a very small percentage of cases, and that, in most cases tenants are getting generous buyouts that can sometimes put them in the
ranks of those looking to become homeowners by buying a TIC unit. Policymakers would be well advised to proceed carefully lest they stomp on the very tenants whom they claim to be trying to help.
We need a fresh approach, one that recognizes the need to protect our most vulnerable and maintain diversity, but also provide the security of homeownership to the greatest number of residents possible.
Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News. For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at www.smallprop.org or call (415) 647-2419.