A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM, available in San Francisco.
An analysis of public records for more than three dozen buildings involved in a tenant lawsuit against Veritas Investments Inc. shows the number of reported problems and citations rose sharply after the giant landlord acquired the properties. These buildings also received a record number of violation notices.
Soon after becoming governor, Gavin Newsom unveiled a plan to speed housing construction — but at the expense of the landmark California Environmental Quality Act, which has acted as a check on development for 50 years. Newsom crafted his blueprint with input from builders and the largest construction union. Prominent environmental groups were excluded, however.
More than 100 tenants in 39 rent-controlled apartment buildings have sued the owner, Veritas Investment Inc., for behavior they allege is designed to push them out in favor of new, higher-paying residents. The $3 billion company denies the charges, alleging the lawsuit is a money grab.
As Californians battle this fall over a ballot measure to allow cities much wider leeway to impose all sorts of rent control, both sides of the debate throw around citations to academic papers, economic studies and seemingly compelling statistics. But a review of the available research shows that both sides are wrong.
Veritas Investments owns nearly 200 buildings in the city. It’s been a target for tenant advocates, who accuse the company of building a business model that relies on pushing tenants out of rent-controlled units so they can be re-rented for much more. Veritas disputes the accusations that is “hostile or negligent” toward tenants.
Amid San Francisco’s growing housing crisis, some now see mediation as an alternative to nasty, expensive court fights to keep tenants housed and property owners content. For more than 20 years, that approach has staved off evictions in the capital of Wisconsin.
In their 2018 mayoral campaigns, former state senator Mark Leno and Supervisor Jane Kim emphasized the role of speculators in driving gentrification and displacement in San Francisco. A tax or lawsuits would target ‘flippers’ to protect tenants and rental housing. A 2014 measure failed. But S.F. voters may again be asked again whether speculators should be taxed.
Is an abundance of vacant units worsening the Bay Area’s housing crisis? That’s what some politicians have suggested. Their solution: a new tax on landlords who leave residential and commercial properties unrented. Oakland will vote in November and an S.F. measure is being planned for 2019. Vancouver, Melbourne and Paris already levy such taxes.
Cities would regain power to regulate rental housing if Proposition 10 passes in November, repealing Costa-Hawkins. But would that help or hurt the affordability crisis?