Last week an article came out in The New York Times titled “Thousands of New Millionaires Are About to Eat San Francisco Alive”. In it Nellie Bowles discusses how several large tech companies like Uber, Lyft, AirBnb, Slack, and others plan to go public this year, making millionaires out of thousands employed by them.
The effect of the article on those of us who are not joining the millionaire’s club was harrowing. After nearly a decade of hyper-gentrification – where too many friends and family members were displaced, landmark businesses shuttered, and the artistic community gutted – there was a collective groan of “Oh f*****ck…” The question of “How could things get any worse here,” had been answered resoundingly.
The last time something like this happened was between March 2012 and November 2013 when Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp all went public over an roughly 18- month period. The effect on the housing market was visceral: evictions skyrocketed, rents tripled, and we began using the term “housing crisis” to describe what was happening.
The scary thing is, considering how many companies might issue an IPO this year, and how many employees they each have, there may be far more overnight millionaires in San Francisco than ever before.
So how do we fix this? For one, San Francisco needs to build more housing, especially affordable housing. The City needs to continue to create more incentives for affordable housing construction, and expand its efforts to make it easier to have in-law units.
San Francisco legislators can also pass laws to de-incentivize real estate speculation. In 2014 an initiative was put on the ballot that would’ve put a steep tax on anyone who tried to sell a multiunit property within five years of when they bought it. The measure was called Proposition G and was meant to deter the rapacious speculation that was happening.
Unfortunately, the real estate industry dumped millions of dollars from around the county into the battle and defeated Prop G, but maybe it’s time the Board of Supervisors starts working on a similar bill.
While there are plenty of things The City can do to in response to the coming IPO-pocalypse, the people who are about to become rich need to take some responsibility as well.
I know a fair amount of people who fall into this category. Many of them are people who have been around since before things got so crazy and have seen the changes. To them I say this: Don’t become the people you used to hate.
There’s nothing wrong with making money. You’ve probably worked hard and it’s wonderful to see that you’re achieving success. But it’s also important to remember that your success affects your neighbors too.
As to the newly rich, here are some simple guidelines for reducing your millionaire footprint:
– If you buy a place, don’t evict people just so you can make more money. That’s evil , especially since you just made a ton. If you are going to do an owner move-in, then actually live there and don’t try to turn a profit on someone else’s misery.
– Don’t buy a place where someone was evicted. You can find out if anyone was evicted from a spot you’re considering by looking it up on AntiEvictionMap.com.
– Donate some of your new wealth to organizations fighting for tenants rights. Organizations like the SF Tenants Union, Tenants Together, Eviction Defense Collaboration, and Housing Rights Committee of SF are all working towards keeping people in their homes during these terrifying times. Your money can help them do that.
While I obviously, don’t have all the answers, these are good places to start. And if You have more suggestions on ways the newly minted can avoid making things worse, please leave them in the comments.
Just try not to be a jerk about it.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him atBrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list to stay up on the work he’s doing:http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His guest column, Broke-Ass City, runs Thursdays in the Examiner.