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Richmond district feels housing crunch

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Investors and speculators have shifted their attention to the Richmond district, where there is less public awareness about The City’s housing crisis. (Kevin Kelleher/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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By many accounts the Mission is Ground Zero for The City’s housing crisis, where more than 900 low- and moderate-income families have left in the past five years, and frequent protests aim to curb the neighborhood’s real estate frenzy.

But recent efforts by tenant rights organizations and city officials reveal parts of San Francisco perhaps previously considered immune to the housing crisis — including the foggy Richmond district — are also feeling the squeeze.

“What we’re seeing in the Richmond district is that there are very nice, large flats in apartment buildings … that are coming on the market,” said Tracy Parent, organizational director of the nonprofit San Francisco Community Land Trust, which turns apartment buildings into resident-controlled housing.

“Some cases don’t even have to list the property on multiple listing service,” Parent added. “There’s so many buyers out there … they can even find a buyer without putting it on the public market.”

That’s where the Community Land Trust steps in. Since 2001, the organization has purchased eight properties, primarily in the Mission and downtown neighborhoods, and is in the process of acquiring another three in more centrally located neighborhoods.

None of the buildings that were bought or in the process of being bought are in the Richmond.

However, in the past six months, the organization has received calls from tenants of five buildings for sale in the Richmond, indicating the trend may be shifting to less high-profile neighborhoods.

City data also shows evictions for all causes have increased by 137 percent in the Outer Richmond from 2010-2014, significantly higher than the citywide average of 54 percent during that same time.

“Investors are afraid to buy in the Mission because it’s a political hotbed, but they are going out to the Richmond,” Parent said. “It feels a little safer for investors and speculators to buy property out there. There’s not as much public awareness and public shaming being brought to light in that district.”

Parent noted Ellis Act evictions, in which a landlord evicts tenants from rent-controlled housing in order to exit the rental business, are on the rise in the Richmond as well. But a lack of tenant rights groups in the neighborhood has left residents, in some cases, stranded.

“In the last year or two, we have seen larger buildings get fully Ellis evicted [in the Richmond],” Parent said. “Tenants are unable to connect immediately with some of the activist groups based in the Mission and South of Market.”

In fact, The City’s first-ever Housing Balance Report, released in July, showed the Richmond has a negative 32 percent balance of below-market-rate housing, meaning the neighborhood is losing more of such housing than it is building.

Other neighborhood leaders have taken notice of the housing crunch in the Richmond as well. Richard Corriea, president of the Planning Association for the Richmond, noted that housing has become as important an issue today as when The City grew by tens of thousands of residents in the 1850s.

“The housing climate is very tight,” Corriea said. “There’s limited inventory for folks to rent, and there’s limited movement.”

Efforts are under way to turn the tide in the Richmond, however.

The City’s Small Site Acquisition Program that launched in July 2014 to help nonprofit housing organizations buy rent-controlled buildings at risk of being sold to a speculator will run out of money by next summer. But the program is up for renewal as part of the $310 million Housing Bond on the November ballot.

Richmond district Supervisor Eric Mar is also well aware of the rising displacement in the neighborhood and is working to combat the trend.

“The displacement of families, seniors and low and moderate income residents has been growing over the past year and has to be dealt with in a multifaceted and comprehensive manner,” Mar said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner.

On Saturday, Mar will host his third tenant rights town hall at the Richmond Recreation Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Tenant rights organizations including the Housing Rights Committee, Tenants Together, the Community Land Trust will provide information for tenants faced with evictions.

“The Our Richmond/No Evictions town hall is part of a broader strategy … to support Richmond district residents as our neighborhood struggles with the citywide eviction and displacement crisis,” Mar said.

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