Evictions in The City are at their highest level since 2001-02, the height of the real estate madness seen during the first tech boom, according to the San Francisco Rent Board’s annual eviction report released Tuesday.
From March 1, 2013, to this past Feb. 28, landlords filed 1,977 eviction notices. That’s the most since 2001-02, when 2,101 eviction notices were filed.
And use of the Ellis Act — which allows a property owner to oust tenants in order to get out of the rental business — nearly doubled for the third straight year. City officials and tenant advocates say most uses of the Ellis Act are by real estate speculators who have just purchased a rent-controlled building.
But while Ellis Act evictions in the past year rose from 116 to 216, they only represented about 11 percent of all evictions. Still, such evictions remove rental units from The City’s stock and make the property much more valuable.
Two years ago, there were 64 Ellis Act evictions.
“It confirms what we all know: we continue to have an affordability crisis,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who along with other elected officials has proposed a number of tenant-focused laws intended to stem the tide of evictions.
Chiu, along with fellow California Assembly candidate Supervisor David Campos, Mayor Ed Lee and many other elected officials, recently pledged support for state Sen. Mark Leno’s proposal that would force new owners to wait five years before invoking the Ellis Act.
Lee is a former tenant-rights attorney who has been criticized for welcoming the booming tech industry, which in turn has been blamed for the skyrocketing cost of housing. But he is squarely behind making the market more affordable for renters.
“While thankfully these numbers are not what San Francisco experienced during the late ’90s, they need to be addressed,” mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.
Chiu has also moved to legalize existing in-law units and allow tenants in a building about to be sold to put in a bid on the property.
More radical proposals, like Supervisor Eric Mar’s resurrection of a 1970s-era punitive “speculation tax,” could be approved at the November ballot. About two-thirds of registered voters in The City are renters, records show.
The vast majority of evictions are ousters even the most hardened radical would call legitimate. Reasons like nonpayment of rent, “committing a nuisance” and lease agreement violations are responsible for more than 1,100 of the 1,977 evictions in the past year.
Just how troubling the Ellis Act is to tenants depends on who you ask — tenant advocates or lobbyists for landlords and property owners.
Groups like the San Francisco Apartment Association rightly point out that Ellis Act evictions represent a small percentage of the total. That’s countered by the San Francisco Tenants Union position that for each Ellis Act eviction filed, as many as five more tenants leave apartments under the threat of a future Ellis Act eviction.
On the rise
Evictions are at their highest level since the height of the first dot-com boom:
Use of the Ellis Act has quadrupled over the past five years:
Source: San Francisco Rent Board