Board eyes fee in condo conversions

One city supervisor says the political will finally exists to allow homeowners to bypass the condo-conversion lottery system for a one-time fee.

Supervisor Mark Farrell wants people with tenancy-in-common units to get a one-time deal to pay up to $20,000 per unit to bypass The City’s condo-conversion lottery.

“It’s assisting property owners who need help,” Farrell said.

Similar proposals have gone nowhere at City Hall. Farrell acknowledged it has been a “third rail,” but he suggested the political climate has shifted.

“This is a different Board of Supervisors and this is a different time,” Farrell said.

Financing for tenancy-in-common units is difficult and the interest rates high. Those living in these units share a percentage of a building’s ownership through group loans or “fractional loans.” Unlike condos, they do not own the units outright.

Currently, more than 2,500 units are in a lottery system. Each year, 200 units, or about 50 buildings, are allowed to be converted into more lucrative condos. The lottery is for buildings with three to six units. Some people have been waiting 10 years to convert.

On Tuesday, Farrell will introduce legislation with co-sponsor Supervisor Scott Wiener following a rally outside City Hall.

Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, is opposed to bypassing the lottery for a fee. He said it will only encourage more tenancy-in-common units and lower the rental stock. And while this would be a one-time chance, he said it could happen again when conversion demand increases.

If the proposal fails to pass the board, it could end up on the November ballot. But at this point, Farrell said he is focused on the legislative process.

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