‘The Realtors Association Can’

“The Realtors Association Can”
(to the tune of “The Candy Man Can”)

Who can block Ellis Act reform
And stop affordable housing that we need?
Who can lobby against eviction
Just to satisfy their greed?

The Realtors
The Realtors can
The Realtors can cause they
Pay the right people
In all the places that they should

If you think you know everything about the seemingly endless eviction and affordable housing crisis that San Francisco continues to endure, think again.

While some continue to push the false notion that there are no solutions other than building high-rise luxury condo towers on our waterfront and everywhere else, several substantive measures to address San Francisco’s housing crisis that should have passed were defeated over the last few years. And one well-funded, well-connected political player was behind blocking all of them.

So here’s your San Francisco Housing Crisis Pop Quiz: Which powerful political lobbying force helped block all of the following tenant protection and affordable housing measures from becoming law over the last few years: Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Ellis Act reform bills, which would have curbed evictions of seniors, families and longtime residents; a San Francisco ballot initiative that would have increased the penalty for real estate speculation in an effort to deter unfair evictions; and a state bill to enable cities to require new rental housing developments to include a certain minimum percentage of their new rental apartments as affordable units.

Who was against them all? Was it:
A) San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR)
B) Venture Capitalist Ron Conway
C) Mayor Ed Lee
D) The San Francisco Association of Realtors
E) All of the above

If you answered all of the above, you’re wrong. The correct answer is ‘D.’

While the policies and politics of SPUR, Conway and Mayor Lee certainly shoulder much of the blame for our housing affordability and eviction crisis, only the Realtors association and its affiliates spent more than a million dollars to oppose and defeat all of these tenant protection and affordable housing measures in the last few years.

Last April, the San Francisco Association of Realtors’ Executive Director attacked Sen. Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill with an op-ed titled, “Ellis Act reform would make evictions worse.” Well, the Realtors got their way: Leno’s bill died in committee, and no new Ellis Act reform has moved forward since.

But the Realtors were wrong. It’s the failure of Ellis Act reform that has made evictions worse. The latest annual eviction report, released last month by the San Francisco Rent Board, shows evictions have continued to climb in the last year, with 2,376 evictions filed with the Rent Board between March 2015 and February 2016, an increase from last year’s 2,120 evictions. Evictions under the Ellis Act also increased from 113 to 154 — and those are just the evictions that got reported.

In a recent news article, the chief lobbyist for the San Francisco Realtors association griped that the group was being unfairly criticized, complaining, “We’re not developers, we’re not landlords, we’re not the Apartment Association.”

Given the Realtors association’s aggressive role in blocking Ellis Act reform, opposing eviction protections and stopping affordable housing measures, I would have to say that’s right. They’re worse.

Jon Golinger is an environmental attorney who lives in North Beach

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