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SF housing program prevents evictions at five rent-controlled buildings

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Organizational Director of San Francisco Community Land Trust Tracy Parent speaks to residents and others at a news conference on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 1353 Folsom St., one of the five properties across four neighborhoods purchased by the San Francisco Community Land Trust & Mission Economic Development Agency. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Teresa Dulalas for 12 years lived in fear that she would be evicted from the three-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment in the South of Market neighborhood she has called home for nearly four decades.

Dulalas, 54, and the other tenants in the three-unit building – where each unit is less than $1,000 a month, well below market rate – have been served eviction notices three separate times.

Each time, the owner attempted to remove Dulalas the residents using California’s Ellis Act, in which a landlord may evict tenants from rent-controlled housing in order to exit the rental business.

“We decided, as neighbors, we’re not going to leave,” Dulalas said Thursday on the front steps of the apartment building at 1353-57 Folsom St. “This is our home. We’re going to fight.”

Today, the fight is over.

City leaders announced Thursday the building Dulalas lives in is among five properties recently purchased with the help of The City’s Small Sites Program, which provides loans to nonprofits for the acquisition and rehabilitation of private properties to protect existing tenants and establish long-term below-market-rate housing.

In addition to the Folsom Street building, the program provided loans to the San Francisco Community Land Trust to buy properties at 70-72 Belcher St. and 1684-1688 Guerrero St. The program also helped the Mission Economic Development Agency, another nonprofit, buy 643-646 Guerrero St. and 380 San Jose Ave.

More than 20 tenants collectively were saved from evictions in the five purchases, city officials said. Vacant units that were purchased will be offered for rent through a lottery process to applicants who earn up to 120 percent of the area median income.

The Small Sites Program provided $7.7 million of the $10.7 million needed to purchase all five properties, said Ruby Harris, project manager of The City’s single family housing programs.

Launched in 2014, the Small Sites Program has contributed $13.9 million in city dollars to help nonprofit organizations purchase eight properties prior to Thursday’s announcement, preserving 49 residential units.

The five properties announced Thursday include 19 rent-controlled units.

A $310 million housing bond passed by voters last year ensures the program will continue, though it’s not known exactly how much money from the bond will be allocated for the program.

At a news conference Thursday morning outside the Folsom Street property, before a half-dozen tenants who sat proudly on their steps, Mayor Ed Lee called the purchase of the five properties “a community victory.”

“Some 19 families who have called their residences their home and in this case, for 30 years, are no longer under threat of eviction,” Lee said.

“All 19 families in five different buildings, in different neighborhoods, while as diverse of backgrounds as they have had, they have shared one common challenge…all of them, at some time, received a letter, an Ellis Act notice, posted on their door, and said they had to go,” he said.

Ellis Act evictions have been widely blamed for contributing to The City’s housing crisis, and local political efforts have long fought against such evictions.

Lee noted that while more housing must be built in San Francisco, preserving homes with low-income residents must also remain a priority.

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