Rising tenant buyouts in SF targeted by new legislation and map

A new interactive map published today by the Anti Eviction Mapping Project shows the spike in tenancy buyouts over the last year in San Francisco, just in time to raise awareness for Sup. David Campos’ proposed legislation to document and regulate tenant buyouts, which has a hearing later this month.

The map only records buyouts reported to the San Francisco Tenants Union, up 126 percent from 2012 to 2013 and expected to be even higher when data for 2014 is collected, but the Tenants Union estimates the number to be only about one-third of the buyouts actually taking place.

Campos’s legislation, which will go before the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee on Sept. 22, seeks to record any buyout taking place in San Francisco with the rent board, and to guarantee the information of tenants rights to the tenant being bought out. [UPDATE: Because of the likely fiscal impacts of the legislation, it has been moved to the Budget & Finance Committee for its first hearing, with no hearing date scheduled yet]. 

“Regulating and recording buyouts isn’t going to stop them, we don’t believe that’s something within our power or within our rights,” Erin McElroy, a member of the Anti Eviction Mapping Project, told us.

The legislation will, however, impose the same condo conversion prohibitions that are already in place for no-fault evictions. The buyouts were virtually nonexistent before 2006, when San Francisco passed legislation severely limiting the conversion to condos of units that had been cleared of tenants use no-fault evictions.

“Buyouts are really the main way that landlords are evicting tenants,” Ted Gullickson, executive director of the Tenants Union, told us. “They threaten them with an Ellis Act eviction, then come in sweet with a buyout. We need legislation that takes away the incentive for one of the biggest methods of displacement in the city.”

“There are just so many components to the housing crisis [in San Francisco] that we need to know all that we can,” McElroy said. “Most tenants don’t know their rights and they often aren’t being offered enough.”

But groups with opposing views don’t believe that keeping a public record of a private contract is legal.

“Buyouts are mutually beneficial for both landlords and tenants. A tenant can get the money they need so that they can put down a mortgage on their own home,” Charlie Goss from the San Francisco Apartment Association told us. “It’s also a private contract. At face value, there is nothing wrong with recording buyouts, it just may not be constitutional.”

Both sides of the aisle are heated, and Gullickson expects a long fight before the legislation makes any progress, but he thinks that if the tenants side can persuade the more moderate supervisors, it can go through.