Bill aims to maintain rent-controlled units

The City could replentish its stock of rent-controlled apartment units after individual apartment buildings are demolished by their owners or leveled by an earthquake, if a new bill by a San Francisco politician becomes law.

A bill introduced Wednesday by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, would allow local governments to order property owners to replace every demolished rent-control unit with an equivalent rent-control unit somewhere in The City.

“[The bill] would enable local governments to find a very disciplined and straightforward way to keep rent-control units available for the citizenry,” Migden said.

Most of San Francisco’s 320,000 housing units are lived in by renters, according to U.S. Census data.

Of the rental units, 91 percent are rented at city-mandated rent-controlled prices, according to San Francisco Rent Arbitration and Stabilization Board figures.

In the last decade, more than 650 rental units in The City have been demolished, board figures show. A 19-year-old state law prevents cities such as San Francisco from imposing rent-control conditions on any newly built units.

The Residential Builders Association of San Francisco will likely support the bill if it doesn’t affect building projects that have already started, according to President Sean Keighran.

“We need housing policies that are going to address our lack of new rental housing,” he said. “Nobody is really addressing that issue right now.”

But the proposal was criticized by the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, which mainly represents owners of two-, three- and four-unit apartment buildings.

“Obviously, if a building is being torn down, then it’s being torn down for a reason — that the building has deteriorated and needs to be rebuilt,” SPOSFI President David Fix said. “But somebody’s not going to rebuild housing if it’s going to be under the same price controls.”

San Francisco Tenants Union Executive Director Ted Gullicksen praised the bill.

“Most of the renters in San Francisco would not be able to live here if it weren’t for rent control,” he said. “At this point, it’s impossible for the number of rent-control units to increase.”

Gullicksen added that, under present law, an earthquake could wipe out San Francisco’s entire rent-control stock in a single day because it would be illegal for The City to order them to be replaced.

Migden aide Eric Potashner said the legislation was suggested by the San Francisco Tenants Union, a decades-old renters’ advocacy group, and by Supervisor Chris Daly.

Daly said The City will take advantage of the legislation if it passes.

jupton@examiner.com

Who’s living where

Owner-occupied units*1…..126,700

Renter-occupied units*1…..195,800

Rent-controlled units*2…..179,000

Sources: *1. U.S. Census, 2. San Francisco Rent Arbitration and Stabilization Board

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