AdviceSan Francisco

SF Housing Crisis Horror Story Part 2

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This is part two in a story about how ugly the housing crisis has made some living situations in San Francisco. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2: The Present

March 2015-August 2016


Landlord uses intimidation tactics to scare tenants out. photo:

It’s been almost a year and a half since the cameras went up.

Surprise, evil landlady! We’re still here!

Yes. We are still here, despite your disgusting intimidation tactics. We are still here, confined to our rundown, rent-controlled apartment in our “borderline ghetto” neighborhood. Not much has changed. We’ve gone through a couple more roommates, there are more stains on the carpet and there is more mold growing in the walls. Oh, and our toaster oven exploded and caught on fire when my roommate plugged it in the other day.

When I moved into apartment X in 2010, I would have laughed if you asked me if I thought I would still be living here today. I had assumed it was a temporary fix that allowed me to delay growing up for a couple more years. Six years later, at the age of 38, I never imagined that I would be sharing a room with my girlfriend and living with roommates and a black cat. But as embarrassing as that sounds, I am not alone.

In San Francisco, communal living has become a never-ending reality for a lot of us. The housing crisis hit The City like a hurricane. While some people got thrown out of their homes and onto the streets, others became trapped in their homes. Rent control became a both a blessing and curse. If you Google “average rent in San Francisco today,” it will tell you that as of June 2016, average apartment rent within the city of San Francisco, CA is $3907. One bedroom apartments in San Francisco rent for $3490 a month on average and two bedroom apartment rents average $4754. With prices as ridiculous as these, nobody I know can afford to move out on their own – not even if they split the bill with their significant other.

Thus, we, the tenants of Apartment X are still here. We have nowhere else to turn. The only good thing about the cameras is that they have brought the tenants of our building closer together. We share a common bond built on fear, doubt and degradation every time we come home and see the red light burning in each camera as they watch us from above. We also share a mutual aversion towards our landlady who is trying to make our lives a living hell.

Our landlady has always been pretty flaky, but over the past year she has taken it to new extremes. Here is a list of collective complaints from the tenants in our building:

Never Fixing Shit When it Breaks



It took her three months to send someone over to fix a leaky faucet even though were experiencing the worst drought in the past century. Two months ago, a mirror in our bathroom shattered out of the blue, and it still has not been replaced. One tenant said he waited several weeks to get an oven repaired. Another said she took so long to repair his fridge that he had to throw all of the food out. 

Illegal Proof of Income Requests

After she denied a few candidates due to credit scores below 720, we opted for a foreigner that had no credit. She said that he could move in, as long as all of the current tenants resubmit our proof of income to show that we could cover the rent in full. This is not legal, but we complied to avoid conflict. She approved the guy based on our current finances. Unfortunately, that guy only lasted a few months before he moved in with his girlfriend.

Dragging Feet to Approve New Applicants


It took her over a month to get back to us regarding the next potential applicant. By the time she actually responded that she had received his application, they guy had found another place. That left us back at square one. After doing several more interviews, we found someone fully qualified. Of course it took another month before she approved him. Luckily, he was able to wait it out.

Not Replacing Keys in  Timely Manner


Our main gate operates with a DO NOT DUPLICATE KEY. We have to purchase these keys from her for $35 each. However, a tenant happens to lose one of these keys, they will probably wait a week or two before she issues a new one.

Holding our Bikes Hostage

Just as suddenly as she installed security cameras over the building, she put gates on the two back entrances of our building in the backyard. These gates lock with a latch from the inside, but no one has a key to the outside of the locks – not even the landlady! This makes it impossible to access our bikes which are stored in the garage, which makes commuting by bike an unreliable option for all tenants. I have asked her at least five times to change the locks to the master lock with no response. 

As you can see, our landlady is trying to bully us out of our apartment. She hopes that by not doing her job, we will simply pack up and move out. But it’s not that easy. As much as I would love to move out of apartment X, I don’t have many prospects at present. If I want to move out of here, I will need to move out of SF for good. For now, we are still here and we will stand our ground until further notice.

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Heidi Smith - The Ultimate Scavenger

Heidi Smith - The Ultimate Scavenger

Heidi works for a non-profit cultural exchange organization helping others experience life from a different perspective. She likes magnetizing the obscure and scavenging the city for fun, free things to do. She is a world traveler, a freelance writer and a spontaneous chef. She is also said to be part-mermaid.