S.F. housing shouldn’t be a zero-sum game

This responds to my friend Randy Brasche’s letter in the Friday, May 12

Examiner.

As a supervisor, I have worked to expand home ownership opportunities in San Francisco.

Last year, I co-authored legislation with Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier to allow all 100 percent owner-occupied buildings to convert to condominiums. While the legislation was not passed, the debate on new home ownership shifted.

First-time tenancy-in-common homeowners turned out in large numbers at City Hall. They were teachers, firefighters, artists, writers and yoga instructors.

They were the antithesis of speculators. They were the parents of young children they wanted to raise as San Franciscans. They were individuals in their 40s and 50s who could not secure themselves in this city without becoming home-

owners.

Even though that measure failed, I followed up with successful legislation that reformed the condominium lottery to restore seniority and fairness for long-time participants. This was The City’s first legislation in years to assist people who were becoming homeowners.

Following that achievement, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin convened a task force that looked at a balanced equation to protect vulnerable tenants while easing the route to ownership for individuals who were not displacing existing residents through the state’s Ellis Act. Unfortunately, this attempt at consensus disbanded.

In the interim, Supervisor Peskin moved forward legislation to preclude buildings with Ellis Act evictions from condominium conversion dating back to 1999.

As much as I support home ownership, which is so challenging in our city, I do not believe in home ownership at any cost. I don’t support the Ellis Act as a tool to create housing ownership when it victimizes vulnerable tenants and creates polarization, division and anger.

Isupported an amendment that limits retroactivity to May 2005. The practical effect was allowing an estimated 5,800 homeowners to remain eligible for condo conversion because they operated by the rules as they existed. Also, the Ellis Act requires that once rental property is removed, it can’t be re-rented for 10 years. This amendment also established that after 10 years, a building with an Ellis could re-enter the condo lottery.

I respect that some of my allies still oppose Peskin’s legislation. But for me it finally separates promoting ownership from the specter of encouraging Ellis Act evictions.

This week, I will introduce legislation that incentivizes “good behavior.” If a TIC is formed in a building with a protected-class tenant — elderly, disabled, catastrophically ill — and the buyers enable that tenant to purchase their unit, they could be exempt from waiting in the condo lottery.

This could be done for a two-year trial basis limited to 50 or so conversions annually. It would enable us to see whether such a provision might help long-term renters own their housing units.

Another way to promote ownership without displacement is new housing. With the Planning Department I am co-sponsoring a Community Charette process on Market Street in the Castro. There are almost a dozen possible in-fill housing-over-retail projects. Almost 500 units could be developed on underused parcels that are parking lots, gas stations and an auto-parts warehouse.

This can provide more ownership inventory without displacement while bringing down prices. There will also be inclusionary housing built that can and should help individuals who were displaced.

I don’t believe housing in San Francisco should be a zero-sum game, i.e., anything for home ownership hurts renters and vice versa. We need creativity, vision and common ground.

I also don’t believe that limiting the Ellis Act is a betrayalof my advocacy. I know that ownership creates financial empowerment and enables individuals to live in our city long term. But I don’t believe that Ellis Act evictions are either the right path or the only way to go.

For anyone interested in reviewing my new legislation or if you have ideas, please e-mail me at bevan.dufty@sfgov.org.

Bevan Dufty is a member of the Board of Supervisors and represents District 8.General OpinionOpinion

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