San Francisco will soon spend previously unthinkable sums on the fight against homelessness. The massive influx of cash — nearly $600 million over the next year collected thanks to a voter initiative, combined with hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures by the homelessness department — could be a game changer.
On Tuesday, Mayor London Breed extended until Dec. 1 her order blocking most evictions in the city. But that is just one aspect of eviction regulations, which are robust and complicated. Here’s how they affect renters.
Mayor London Breed Tuesday gave San Francisco tenants an additional month to figure out how they will cover rent and avoid eviction, in light of economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the soonest landlords could legally evict for nonpayment of rent is Dec. 1. That’s a month later than the previously announced eviction moratorium was set to end. The information was initially made public in a web post from the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. The San Francisco Public Press received confirmation of these changes from Hugo Ramirez, a staff member at the Mayor’s office.
San Francisco residents have requested four times the rent assistance City Hall can provide, indicating a widening gap between resident needs and the city’s ability to help. The city is in the process of giving out $7 million to help people cover rent — but it has received more than $28 million in requests from over 6,800 applications since this spring, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, which is disbursing the money from the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
A challenge to San Francisco’s eviction moratorium lost in court Monday. The San Francisco Apartment Association and three co-plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco in June to overturn legislation that took eviction permanently off the table for unpaid rents due during the pandemic. They argued that it was an unconstitutional taking of property and pre-empted state law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines heard arguments in the case Friday before ruling in favor of the city. “This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, the legislation’s author, on Twitter.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.
Tenants would gain a potential pathway into permanently affordable housing — to weather the COVID-19 pandemic — under a bill making its way through the state Legislature. Assembly Bill 1703 would require most owners looking to sell residential rental property to give the property’s tenants, as well as designated groups like nonprofits, the opportunity to make the first offer to purchase. If any of those outside groups bought the building, rents would be capped to help protect low-income tenants from displacement — a major threat as the state faces a recession and widespread job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill’s sponsors are trying to guard against a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis’ fallout. “If you mapped where most homes were lost, and who lost them, they were Black and brown communities,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, one of more than 40 groups that sponsored the bill and brought the concept to the state Capitol, where Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) wrote and introduced it.
Real estate groups Monday sued the City and County of San Francisco to overturn an eviction ban designed to help renters weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the city ordinance “violates constitutional and state law” empowering landlords to evict, and conflicts with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Orders, which have allowed local governments to issue temporary bans on evictions — not permanent ones. The San Francisco Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and Coalition for Better Housing jointly filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court. The groups are also seeking a temporary restraining order to suspend the law, said Noni Richen, president of the small property owners group. The legislation, signed into law June 26, outlaws eviction for nonpayment of rents that were due from March 16 through July 29 — a time period tied to Newsom’s executive order.
A landlords’ group plans to sue San Francisco over tenant protections established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the organization’s executive director. The Board of Supervisors this month approved a permanent ban on evictions for rents unpaid from mid-March through July. An earlier local eviction moratorium would have allowed landlords to start pursuing evictions of tenants for any remaining unpaid rents — even those due during the emergency — by the end of December. The end date of the eviction ban is based on an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could extend the time period. The switch to a permanent ban galvanized the San Francisco Apartment Association, a property owners group with thousands of members, to threaten legal action.
Construction sites are coming back to life throughout San Francisco, but the surge in activity may not last long. Builders pulled 334 permits last week, up from zero 10 weeks earlier as the coronavirus shutdown took effect. That puts construction activity at about 58% of normal. In the year leading up to Mayor London Breed’s mid-March order for construction to cease, City Hall received about 580 permit applications a week. The number of permits has been on a slow climb since hitting zero, and began to accelerate on May 4, when Breed allowed construction to fully resume.