As pressing as the matter of climate change might be, there is another, arguably, even more urgent threat to San Francisco remaining a home for the workers and the oppressed. We are, of course, talking about the already obscenely high rents and real estate prices that go up quickly and never go down, driving long-time residents from San Francisco and destroying the economic and cultural diversity of the City as it does. In response, the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party establishment looks for ways to increase affordable housing in San Francisco by meekly ordering developers to make slightly higher contributions to the affordable housing fund or to slightly increase the percentage of affordable units in their market-rate (read: luxury) developments, all while using a bizarre legal definition of “affordable housing” that makes it unavailable to many of those who need it most. The equity built by landlords in their properties is paid for by the exorbitant rents they charge their tenants, and, as the equity grows, so does their motivation to evict people so they can sell their property or charge more rent. And, of course, every time someone is evicted, the rent goes up, which increases the value of the property. Then, every time a property is sold, the City reassesses it and taxes it at its new value, which means the City actually benefits from inhumane evictions. If you want to know why the City isn’t doing anything to prevent evictions, it is because they are being paid for it.
District 11 is where many of the people who have been pushed out of other parts of the City have come to live, often crowding many people into one living space in order to keep rents low and to also make sure that low income homeowners can make their house payments. In the case of D11, many if not most landlords do not live outside of the district and do not profit from owning rental property, but are people who own their own homes and possibly one other rental property that they break out into as many units as possible in order to cover their property taxes and maybe a few minimal repairs while also supporting some of their friends or family members with relatively inexpensive housing. In other words, they shoulder the burden of providing the low-income housing that the City either through incompetence or corruption has thus far not succeeded in developing. This is a very fragile housing structure supporting a vulnerable community, and we need to make it stronger.
No family or individual should be deprived of their/her/his human rights. All humans deserve adequate, clean, comfortable places to live. Shame on a city that allows the most vulnerable of its residents to be thrown into the streets! Shame on the Mayor and the elected officials who offer tax breaks and incentives to big corporations that allow them to make even more money! How many stories must we read in the paper of long-time senior residents being evicted from their rent-controlled apartments for no other reason to increase profits for landlords and speculators before we make such behavior illegal?
We need to boldly face the fact that the housing market in San Francisco is driving people out of San Francisco rather than guaranteeing them homes. The market has failed, and we need a different system, one based on collective ownership of housing as a public good. With this in mind, we call for:
- Declaring a housing emergency. We call for an immediate halt to all evictions in the Excelsior, Ingleside and Outer Mission as well as in all working class neighborhoods in the City and County of San Francisco.
- This housing emergency to include using the City’s power of eminent domain to acquire housing stock.
- This housing emergency to include the introduction of the penalty of forfeiture of property to the City for past abuses of the Ellis Act or Owner Move-In laws for the purposes of evicting tenants.
- This housing emergency to include the introduction of the penalty of forfeiture of property to the City for for-profit landlords and property managers failing to maintain and their rental property.
- In cases where rental property is for sale or being taken off of the rental market, the City to take first right of purchase in partnership with renters, who would become equity partners in the building with the City, as the City converts this property to a joint public housing trust. This way, as co-owner of the property, the City will be responsible for repairs and improvements, like solar panels and water efficiency measures, and even landscaping in order to fight against climate change. Furthermore, the equity that accrues to landlords as the result of rents under our current system will accrue to both the tenant-trust partners and the City, as it should. In other words, City becomes the bank that holds the mortgage with a mandate to never foreclose.
- No more pass-throughs to tenants of bond costs for large infrastructure projects and educational projects.
- No more bonded indebtedness (please see A Point on Finances).
- No more condo conversions.
- Make a full accounting of all City property, and use an open, democratic process based in our elected council of District 11 residents to develop new housing and community space in District 11 in these buildings and spaces.
- Base new housing and community space on existing resources before we build new facilities, consistent with the principles of environmental sustainability.
- Occupy all empty buildings in the District in order to transform them into 100% affordable housing or spaces to address other community needs, like educational services, health clinics, cultural expression (galleries, studios, theatres, rehearsal spaces, etc.) to be paid for with taxes on corporations doing business in San Francisco.
- The aggressive implementation of means-based rent control laws that limit rents to 30% or less of tenants’ income (please see A Living Wage District).
- Reducing the allowable annual percentage rent increase to the percentage that Social Security payments increase every year.
- Strict limits on the ownership of housing in San Francisco. No one should own more than one rental property.
- The City of San Francisco to go into the business of developing housing in San Francisco, expropriating private developers in order to get the equipment where necessary.
- Redefining the City’s homeless population as “tenants in transition”, because we will make it policy to house these people as soon as possible.
- Asserting and protecting the rights of tenants-in-transition to appropriate pieces of public land to live on while they are waiting to be housed.
- Defend all places where tenants-in-transition have formed encampments to protect themselves and one another from police harassment and make sanitation, health, and case management services available to those who want and need them in these encampments.
- Make other plots of unused public land available for further encampments for tenants-in-transition.
- In the meantime, we declare housing a public good and look into acquiring housing and land for conversion to 100% affordable housing.
- Develop shelters with sufficient space and with appropriate support aimed at transitioning people into public housing.
- Local government partnerships for low-income homeowners to support badly-needed home repairs and improvements and the elimination of all property taxes for properties currently assessed below $700,000.
- The City and County of San Francisco to begin implementation of a policy of residential land trusts.