Supervisor Dean Preston proposed a ban on evictions for tenants unable to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Ban on coronavirus-related evictions moves forward

Supervisors will also weigh tax to generate funds for rent relief

A ban on evictions for rent not paid due to coronavirus moved on Monday to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote, and will be followed shortly by a tax proposal to generate housing relief funds.

The legislation stops short of the rent forgiveness called for by tenant advocates and sticks to ruling out non-payment stemming from the state of emergency as a just cause for eviction. It also bars landlords from charging late fees or penalties for non-payment of rent due to the pandemic.

“It does not waive the tenant’s obligation to pay,” Preston said. “It simply takes eviction out of the equation.”

Supervisors Preston, Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin on the Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the legislation Monday after roughly five hours of public comment. It was slated to go before the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, with Preston introducing a housing legislation package in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The package includes a rent relief fund for small landlords with tenants who can’t make up the rent and an affordable housing fund supported by a transfer tax.

Should the ballot measure be placed on the November ballot and passed by voters, a tax would be placed on real estate transactions of $10 million or more, as was previously reported by the San Francisco Examiner. Past trends indicate that would bring in $180 million, but could land between $100 million to $150 million in the face of a downturn, according to Preston’s office.

Landlords who spoke during public comment called the eviction legislation unconstitutional and divisive, and suggested things like property tax credits instead.

The San Francisco Apartment Association is also opposed, noting that small property owners are also hurting financially and that funds for rental assistance should be identified. A survey of the group conducted found that 17 percent of small landlords who responded had at least one tenant unable to pay May rent and 21 percent of overall landlords have received requests for permanent or temporary rent reductions.

“It seems like a reasonable stop-gap measure but it really isn’t,” said landlord Marlene Tran. “This proposal will make it nearly impossible for small property owners to recuperate.”

Landlords and tenants who provide documentation may still work out repayment plans, while those who still lack the income to pay back rent would be directed to the relief fund. The intended relief fund is mentioned in the eviction legislation, which Tenderloin Neighborhood policy and planning manager Gabriella Ruiz noted as a point of support.

“We hope that we can create a way that all parties have equitable protections moving forward,” Ruiz said. “There is a concern our members will enter or return to homelessness.”

Concern has mounted for months that, without rent forgiveness, a surge of evictions will follow the coronavirus pandemic. One San Francisco native who called in said she had been taking out loans to pay her rent and still doesn’t know if she’ll be able to stay in her Mission home long-term.

Mayor London Breed issued an eviction moratorium in March for rent payments missing during the shelter-in-place, currently effective through Aug. 30. Preston’s legislation would codify the moratorium indefinitely.

“We anticipate a tidal wave of evictions if this legislation isn’t passed,” said Scott Weaver, a tenant attorney with Eviction Defense Collaborative. “We know the aftershock would be increased homelessness, the strain on our social services, and an incalculable human cost. Everybody has to give up something and San Francisco landlords, even small landlords, own some of the most valuable property in the country.”

The Board of Supervisors will weigh the legislation at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

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