Ellis Act evictees could receive priority for affordable housing in San Francisco 

click to enlarge Gum Gee Lee
  • Evan DuCharme/S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Proposed city legislation would give affordable-housing priority to people evicted under the Ellis Act, such as Gum Gee Lee, third from right, whose family is being evicted.
One day after the mayor’s intervention granted an elderly couple with a disabled daughter a 10-day reprieve from their Ellis Act eviction, San Francisco supervisors announced a push for legislation that would give longtime tenants in similar straits priority in obtaining The City’s in-demand affordable housing.

If enacted, the proposed legislation would allow tenants with Ellis Act eviction notices who lived in their apartments for more than a decade to receive a one-time certificate of preference in affordable housing programs, including 20 percent of units in new developments.

The certificate, expiring after three years for existing projects or six years for new developments, would be administered by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. It would not stop Ellis Act evictions, but would offer victims much-needed help, said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, lead author of the legislation introduced Tuesday, along with his co-sponsoring supervisors David Campos, Eric Mar, Jane Kim and London Breed.

“We’ve been talking about this for many, many months,” said Chiu, who met the Lee family a year ago and called their situation “one of the many cases that represent the urgent need to represent the most vulnerable of our residents.”

In the past year, 225 units have been removed from the rental market under the Ellis Act, 52 percent of which were inhabited by tenants who had lived at their addresses for more than 10 years, according to San Francisco Rent Board data.

“The number of evictions is at a crisis level here in San Francisco,” Campos said. “This is a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not a solution to the problem.”

Kim said the legislation “was a struggle,” involving much debate about how to help vulnerable families.

An estimated 2,000 units of affordable housing exist in The City. With the proposed legislation at least a month away from a hearing, there is only a slim chance that Gum Gee Lee, 73; husband Poon Heung Lee, 79; and their daughter Shiu Man Lee, 48, who is disabled, would benefit.

Tenant advocates and the Lee family, 34-year residents of an apartment on Jackson and Larkin streets, had hoped that Mayor Ed Lee’s intervention and a rally last Wednesday with more than 100 supporters would lead to a landlord willing to take the family in.

“No good Samaritan so far,” said Gen Fujioka, policy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center.

However, Fujioka said the legislation “is about giving that process which has felt for them like an exercise in futility, a little chance of hope.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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