Evictions and soaring housing costs are rapidly changing and destabilizing our neighborhoods and communities. In the last three years, Ellis Act evictions are up 170 percent, and we have already lost 3,610 units of rent-controlled housing due to the Ellis Act. Families like those of seniors Gum Gee Lee, her husband, Poon Heung Lee, and their disabled daughter, Shiu Man Lee, driven out of their apartment of 34 years last year by an Ellis Act eviction, are bearing the brunt of this speculator-driven market.
The majority of these evictions (and many unreported buyouts) occur within the first few years of a real estate speculator buying an apartment building in order to make a killing by displacing our long-term residents. Their actions drive up housing costs for everyone and have made The City one of the most expensive places to live in the county.
We must protect our long-term and most-vulnerable residents and bring some sanity back to the housing market. As Mrs. Lee said at a recent rally, "It is up to us to stand up against displacement."
Proposition G, the anti-speculation tax, offers a real solution, and is our best shot to stop these unfair evictions. The measure will stop speculators while protecting homeowners and tenants.
Prop. G will impose a surtax ONLY on the resale of multiunit apartment buildings that are bought and sold in less than five years. But it also protects homeowners by excluding ALL single-family homes, condominiums, owner-occupied tenancies-in-common, new housing such as legalized in-law units, and small-property owners who are in the long-term rental business. Only speculators will pay the tax.
Today, the speculator-driven market is in part responsible for soaring housing costs and making it so hard for average families to buy or rent a home in The City. The opponents of Prop. G have amassed a $1.5 million war chest to try to defeat Prop. G, most of which is from the National Realtors and the California Realtors, as well as the San Francisco Realtors, the Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners and the Coalition for Better Housing ("a coalition of the leaders of San Francisco's largest rental properties").
The misinformation campaign has been flooding voters nonstop, spreading lies to cause confusion and fear among homeowners, who of course are exempt from Prop. G and will never pay the anti-speculation tax at all. The No on G campaign lies when it says the tax will hurt homeowners.
Real homeowners are not subject to the tax in any way -- all owner-occupied housing units are exempt -- if you live in your home then your home is exempt. And single-family homes and condominiums are completely exempt, whether they are owner-occupied or not.
The proposed tax on speculation only applies to speculators who buy and resell certain multiunit buildings.
Prop. G is actually very simple -- you will never pay the tax unless you are buying and flipping multiunit apartment buildings. City Controller Ben Rosenfield's statement in the ballot handbook shows how narrowly targeted Prop. G really is: He estimates that in a typical year over the last eight-year period, approximately 60 properties would have been subject to the anti-speculator tax had it been in effect.
That makes it quite clear that what Sen. Mark Leno is talking about: "Prop. G is drafted very narrowly to go after a specific problem -- speculators."
Neighborhood leaders, housing- and tenant-rights groups, labor, and social-justice organizations are joining forces to promote three historic ballot measures in November, part of an agenda to maintain San Francisco's historic diversity -- the YES on G, Stop the Evictions, Yes on J, Raise Up SF and Yes on K, Keep an Affordable Housing Balance -- that will help keep The City livable for working families (the three measures are endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party and the San Francisco Labor Council). The three propositions directly address the crisis of affordability and economic inequality facing San Francisco.
Says Dan Nguyen-Tan, a Western Addition homeowner: "The most interesting neighborhoods in The City reflect tenants and homeowners of various economic means. Prop. G and these other propositions will encourage economic diversity, detract speculators, and help residents who want to invest in San Francisco to stay in The City."
Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti are co-directors of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of 23 nonprofit housing developers and tenant advocates that works to support resident leadership and to craft policy for a vision of San Francisco where all can afford to live, work and thrive.