Vote Yes on Prop I : Ask A Tenants Rights Attorney
Ask a Tenants Right’s Lawyer is your chance to learn how to survive as a renter in San Francisco. Attorney Daniel Wayne has a lot of the information you need to keep you in your home. This month’s topic: Why Your Broke Ass should vote Yes on Proposition I. For the original published version of this article check out Daniel’s blog. Got a question? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward it on.
I am voting Yes on Proposition I on November 3rd
and I hope every Broke Ass reader, die-hard San Franciscan, and voter who values the diversity that makes this city great will too.
Prop I proposes an 18-month moratorium on the development of new luxury housing in the Mission District. The goal of the moratorium is to provide leaders with time to come up with a plan to maintain and expand on the affordable housing presently available.
No doubt your mailbox has been flooded with flyers trying to scare you into voting against this critical measure, telling you a vote for Prop I is a vote for rent increases and an even worse housing shortage than we’re suffering now. But it’s my strong belief, as both a tenants rights attorney and a Mission resident, that Prop I is critical to the survival of the Mission District we all know and love.
It’s no secret that rents in San Francisco have spiraled out of control, increasing on average at a rate of 9.2% annually over the last several years. Along with a dramatic increase in rents the city has seen a massive increase in the number of evictions, and the displacement of thousands of long-term tenants from historically lower-income neighborhoods like the Mission. This needs to stop.
The sad truth is, as property in this city becomes more and more valuable, landlords have more and more to gain by selling their property to developers, or getting rid of long-term residents in favor of new tenants who can and will pay a lot more in rent. And the Mission has become Ground Zero for these kinds of evictions. Unfortunately, when a Mission resident gets displaced, there’s often nowhere for them to go: new two-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood rent for $6,000-$9,800 a month while new condos are fetching between $1.5 and $2.5 million.
The obvious solution is to build more affordable housing in the Mission. And yet, it isn’t being built. Fewer than 12% of all units that are in the planning stages in the Mission are affordable to a family of four earning less than $122,300 (120% of the average household income). There are precious few lots left in the neighborhood, and every time a new condo goes up on one of them, we lose another chance at building affordable housing.
Prop I aims specifically to preserve these lots. During the proposed moratorium, community organizations and city officials have pledged to put together a Neighborhood Stabilization plan to ensure affordable housing actually gets built in the Mission. Neighborhood stakeholders have already developed a framework for such a plan, one which is supported by three current Planning Commissioners, and two former Commissioners.
Why is it so important that we fight for what’s left of the Mission’s affordable housing potential? Just think about everything that makes the neighborhood great: the small mom-and-pop bodegas; the hole-in-the-wall taco shops; the colorful street art; the historically diverse make-up of the neighborhood’s residents. All of the things that make the Mission the Mission are in danger of being priced out of the neighborhood as property values and rents increase, high-income tenants move in, and the kinds of businesses that cater to them continue to follow suit.
Opponents would have you believe that Prop I will cause rents to go up, because demand for market-rate units will continue to increase while supply would stay static. But this argument is flawed. The City Controller’s report estimates just a 0.3 % increase on rents in the Mission as a result of the moratorium – a pittance compared to the 9.2% increase that the city has seen on average over the past several years. And that 9.2% annual increase in citywide rents? It’s taken hold as construction of market-rate housing has far out-paced that of affordable housing: since 2007, the city has built about 30,000 new units, 25,000 of which have been identified as market-rate. Construction of more market-rate housing at the pace we’re going simply doesn’t stop the runaway rent increases we all face.
For those who support Prop I – the majority of San Francisco’s County Supervisors, long-time local housing advocates, and the dedicated local volunteers and community organizations who are going door-to-door advocating for the measure – the choice is clear.
For you cynics who think it’s too late to stop the winds of change – okay. Maybe it is. But if you’re right, there’s no harm in calling a time-out and trying to fix the problem. If we can’t, at least we tried. But maybe – just maybe – we can save the Mission, and it starts with a Yes vote on I.