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Under new model with nonprofits, SF covers down payment on housing property purchases

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Juan Pardo/Special to the S.f. Examiner
Tenant Praveen Sinha walks down a hall at 2976 23rd St.

The deal that saved 16 tenants of a Mission district apartment complex from eviction could become more common after a new city program takes effect.

A nonprofit intent on keeping the tenants in place, rather than an investor or buyer wishing to occupy the building, purchased the property for $1.78 million.

The new small-site acquisition program will see San Francisco cover the down payment of a property purchase to allow nonprofits to buy below-market-rate housing that’s up for sale.

First mentioned by Mayor Ed Lee in his State of the City address in January, the idea’s trial run of sorts is the 14-unit building at 2976 23rd St., which was acquired by the San Francisco Community Land Trust in late May.

Details are still being fleshed out by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and influential city nonprofits, including the Chinatown Community Development Corp.

But the basic formula would see The City plunk down a big enough down payment to allow tenants’ existing rents to pay the rest of the mortgage, said Tracy Parent, the Community Land Trust’s organizational director.

“The only way to completely secure tenant rights or prevent evictions is to own or control the property,” Parent said. “We feel if affordable-housing nonprofits can buy existing small buildings, it will preserve affordable rents comparable to rent control.”

The tenants at 2976 23rd St., a former hostel, currently pay between $700 and $1,000 a month for single bedrooms with a shared kitchen. Most units have shared bathrooms, with the $1,000 rooms featuring private baths. Under the deal, the units will remain below market rate for 200 years.

“My home is no longer someone else’s financial investment, and my living situation isn’t subject to the whims of a financial investment,” said Shalaco, a resident at 2976 23rd St. and writer who goes by only one name.

As the asking price for market-rate apartments continues to increase, the program could be one of the only ways for The City to create middle-income housing, Parent said.

San Francisco could eventually offer as much as $200,000 per unit, Parent said.

Parent’s organization currently owns four buildings, one each in Chinatown, South of Market and Western Addition, and now the Mission.

Earlier this year, the mayor pledged to build or rehabilitate 30,000 housing units by 2020 in order to cut down on rents and give middle-income earners a chance to live more comfortably in The City.

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