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“Historic” Expansion of San Francisco Rent Control Proposed

Updated: May 25, 2022 07:38
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Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a Charter Amendment on Tuesday, May 24th that would “effectively enable the largest expansion of rent control since 1979” should voters adopt the measure this November.

“The market rents of today will be the affordable rents of tomorrow, which I’ve seen firsthand in my over two decades of public service,” said Supervisor Peskin. “This is a long-term vision to ensure that new housing protects new tenants and keeps the communities of the future stable and whole.”

San Francisco is by and large a city of renters—65% of the population according to the 2020 census. Rent control protections are a leading reason tenants like myself have been able to stay here. The city’s first major Rent Stabilization Ordinance went into effect in 1979, covering every certified rental unit built before June 13th of that year. Landlords may increase the rent once annually by up to seven percent of the current rate. It’s worse in Los Angeles, where that figure jumps to eight percent and an additional 10% increase per roommate is permitted.

If passed, the Rent Control Housing Act of 2022 would “establish baseline density controls tied to height and numerical density limits” on November 8th, locking San Francisco’s fluctuating height- and volume-based restrictions in-place. From that point on, these figures would be known as the 2022 Density Limits. Landlords would subsequently need to petition the Board of Supervisors if they wish to build more units on their property, and only pre-authorized supervisors could grant approval. The catch: project developers hoping to exceed the new Density Limits will be required to apply rent control laws to all residential units on the property. Developers must also apply rent control when any new housing project surpasses these limits.

Legislative Director at Tenants Together Shanti Singh said, “Tenant advocates have been engaging in rent control fights across California for years, and I can safely say that once again San Francisco is leading the way on housing production and tenant preservation incentives.”

Rent control undeniably keeps most of the city’s rental market out of real estate mogul hands, but it is it enough to sustain a healthy working-class population in San Francisco? Barriers to a more fair housing market like the Costa-Hawkins Act, passed in 1995, are still in place. That measure inhibits the adoption of local rent control throughout California, as well as the applicability of rent control laws to “new construction,” or residences built after 1995. The latest attempt to repeal Costa-Hawkins failed in 2018, with the defeat of Proposition 10.

The Rent Control Housing Act of 2022 will sit for thirty days following this afternoon’s introduction before being scheduled for a public hearing at the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors. Should six members of the Board of Supervisors vote to add the Charter Amendment to the ballot, it will appear before voters for consideration on the November 8, 2022 ballot. Supervisors Chan, Preston, and Walton have all signed on as co-sponsors.

“San Francisco should be a place where working families can thrive,” said Rudy Gonzalez, Secretary Treasurer of San Francisco Building Trades. “With this focused measure, we can expand the stability created by the city’s rent control ordinance and speed up the production of housing. Securing key labor rights and real training pathways for the workers who will build our housing, in return for streamlining the production, is a fair bargain for San Franciscans.”

Longtime anti-displacement activist Theresa Flandrich said, “We know the tools we need to stabilize communities in the long-term, which is why we fought to ensure that Supervisor Peskin’s 2016 ADU legislation ensured every new in-law unit was rent-controlled. It effectively eliminated single-family zoning while ensuring rent stabilization for generations of tenants. We can do it again, bigger and better.”

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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.

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