New Enhanced Relocation Payments for Ellis Act Evictions

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Last week, San Francisco approved enhanced relocation payments for tenants displaced by Ellis Act evictions. The ordinance resembles last year’s “Campos Amendment”, which sought to align relocation payments with rental rate differentials (i.e., the difference between what displaced tenants had been paying and what they would be paying on the open market).

In an effort to address the constitutional problems that led to the law being overturned last year, the latest modification to the Rent Ordinance caps the enhanced payment at $50,000 per unit, and only requires it where tenants to be displaced confirm that they will use the enhanced relocation payment for housing related expenses.

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The Real Impact of Airbnb on San Francisco

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Curbed SF reports on the impact of Airbnb-dedicated rental units in San Francisco, based on a report prepared by the San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office. While only (roughly) 925 to 1,960 units are being kept off San Francisco’s rental housing market, the fact that only 8,438 units were vacant (in 2013) suggests that this actually imposes a significant impact on available housing supply (and prices).

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Proposed “Thriving Communities and Sharing Economy Act”

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State Senators McGuire and Leno have proposed the Thriving Communities and Sharing Economy Act (SB 593), which would empower cities like San Francisco to assert even greater control over their residential rental housing inventory. The proposed bill would “prohibit an operator of a hosting platform from facilitating the rental of a residential unit offered for occupancy for tourist or transient use, if such a use of that residential unit, or the offering of that residential unit for such a use, is prohibited by an ordinance of the city, county, or city and county in which that residential unit is located”.

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ABC News Interviews Andrew Zacks about the “Other Side” of the SF Rent Crisis

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ABC-7 News’ I-TEAM explores the San Francisco Housing Crisis from the rarely-told perspective of a local landlord. Attorney Andrew Zacks explains how the pendulum has swung too far against landlords in San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee responds that the City emphasizes fairness, and the solution is more affordable housing. Lee recently stood behind this position, encouraging an unprecedented housing bond to subsidize affordable housing for San Francisco’s middle class.

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Supervisor Kim Proposes Discouraging Evictions Through Vacancy Control

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San Francisco Business Times reports that Supervisor Kim is in the process of drafting new legislation that would discourage evictions by imposing rent control on newly vacated units.

Costa-Hawkins already imposes “vacancy control” in the event that a tenancy is terminated following a “notice of rent increase” or a “notice of termination of tenancy” – the former discouraging abusive rent increases designed to obtain vacancy, rather than market rent, and the latter disincentivizing the termination of long-term rent-controlled tenancies. (Legislative intent is unclear on this point, but this language seems to have been to ward off a wave of landlords terminating grandfathered tenancies as Costa-Hawkins was coming on-line in the late 1990s.)

Supervisor Kim’s proposal, on the other hand, is more likely aimed at addressing the increasing number of evictions based on breach of contract and “nuisance behavior”, which skyrocked in the last year for which the Rent Board published data. Her legislation would presumably impose the same kind of “vacancy control” restrictions that Costa-Hawkins itself contemplates.

However, even if her proposed legislation passed, it is not expected to stay on the books for long. Costa-Hawkins was enacted, in part, to prohibit “vacancy control”, where cities would register rental units and impose rental rate restrictions, even when a newly vacated unit was placed on the open market. This deregulation applies, “notwithstanding any other provision of law“.

At least one other law “withstood” this plenary language. The court in Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles found that Costa-Hawkins did not repeal provisions of the Ellis Act allowing cities to restrict rental rates of rental units that were re-rented after a landlord “went out of the rental business”. However, the Ellis Act is state law, on equal footing with Costa-Hawkins. It is unlikely that a court would allow municipal law to carve out its own exception in an area already expressly governed by state law.

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Mayor Lee Proposes Unprecedented Middle Class Housing Subsidy

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How hard is it for San Francisco’s middle class? This November, Mayor Ed Lee will ask San Francisco voters to decide whether the City should issue a $250 million dollar “Affordable Housing General Obligation Bond”, where as much as $100 Million would go toward directly subsidizing the production of “middle class” apartments (units for households making between $100,000 and $140,000 per year).

The City already has a patchwork of other tools in its Inclusionary Affordable Housing Program, including the Downpayment Loan Assistance Program, which provides downpayment loans to middle class residents, the overseeing of Below Market Rate units, and the Small-Site Acquisition Program, which actually purchases multiunit residential buildings to preserve affordable housing stock (generally in response to Ellis evictions and “tenancy-in-common” conversions).

This bond, if successful, would allocate funds toward subsidizing “middle income units”, where “the city would pay about $150,000 to $200,000 per unit to restrict them at moderate-income rents for perpetuity”, as reported by the San Francisco Business Journal. No word yet on whether the process of renting one of these restricted units would be any less laborious than the process for renting below market rate housing.

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Surreal Estate Q&A #4: Deregulation of Mixed-Use Property

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“I have a building with a retail space on the bottom and a single apartment on top in San Francisco. The renter has been there for years, and I haven’t increased the rent yet. These days, his rent is well below market rate. I’m wondering if I can increase his rent, and by how much. ~ Michael”

Michael,
Thank you for your question. First of all, if his initial term lease has expired, you can always increase the rent by at least the annual allowable rent increase, as published by the San Francisco Rent Board. And if you haven’t done this for a few years, you can actually “bank” past year’s allowable increases and impose them all at once. (You lose out on the equivalent of rent increase “compound interest” by waiting, but you don’t actually forfeit your allowable increase by waiting.)

That said, I think your question is directed more toward whether the dwelling unit is rent controlled. My first follow up question would be whether the building was constructed after 1979. However, the profile of this building (one commercial, one residential) sounds like it is probably not “new construction”.

So the only real issue here is Costa-Hawkins deregulates this kind of unit. The language of Section 1954.52(a)(3) deregulates a dwelling unit that “is alienable separate from the title to any other dwelling unit . . .”. The building is multi-unit, but because only one of the units is a dwelling unit, the entire building is technically “separately alienable” from other “dwelling units”.

That said, I would want to double check zoning and make sure that there was never any residential use of the downstairs space, to avoid the imputing of “residential use” to a non-residential unit, as was the case in the recent decision, Burien, LLC v. Wiley.

~JAG

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Market Rate… Moratoria?

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Curbed SF reports that Bayview residents are rallying to extend the Mission’s proposed market rate housing moratorium to Bayview, the logic of a moratorium being all the more alluring to a community that saw a 75% increase in home values between 2010 and 2014, to the Mission’s 63%.

Supervisor Campos champions his proposed moratorium as a mechanism to slow gentrification in the Mission. However, as Grace Martinez of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment urges, “If you do a moratorium in the Mission, they’re just going to build in the Bayview, so let’s protect our neighborhood as well”. That said, if Bayview were to successfully withstand the momentum of development deflected off of the Mission, one wonders which neighborhood would be up next.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Weiner continues to confront the concept of a moratorium generally, noting that such agendas undercut the City’s inclusionary housing program. See his recent post at Medium.com.

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Residential Rent and Eviction Control Resources