Evictions by rent increase are a growing problem in San Francisco. (Courtesy photo)

Ban predatory rent gouging in San Francisco

Another day, another rent-hike horror story making headlines in The City.

A Bernal Heights tenant was forced out in May after her rent went from $2,145 to $8,900. A North Beach tenant was hit last month with a 344 percent rent increase, and his eviction is now imminent. And earlier this month, an Alamo Square resident’s rent doubled after his partner, the master tenant, took his own life.

Enough. It’s time to end evictions by rent increase. The City must put a stop to predatory rent gouging.

On the state level, we’ve already banned what’s known as price gouging, making it a crime in times of crisis to raise the price of basic necessities over 10 percent. If hotel owners, for example, jack up the cost of their rooms after an earthquake, or if store owners double the price of water during a drought, they face stiff fines and even jail time.

With our housing affordability crisis raging, and landlords exploiting loopholes in rent-control protections, San Francisco needs to follow suit when it comes to runaway rent increases.

How would it work?

The City sets a maximum allowable increase for rents — a level that targets only the most outrageous hikes and leaves alone reasonable landlords who aren’t gouging their tenants.

If an increase exceeds the ceiling, landlords face what we’re calling the Runaway Rent Tax, a stiff tax paid by the landlord. All revenue generated goes to creating more affordable housing.

It’s a win-win for renters, and fair-minded landlords face no adverse effect. Most importantly, it’s an immediate game-changer, providing San Francisco tenants with a much-needed protection to stay in their homes.

No more tinkering around the edges, no more excuses from City Hall and no more rent-hike horror stories. Now is the time for our city to end predatory rent gouging.

Dean Preston is a tenant advocate and a candidate for District 5 Supervisor in San Francisco.

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