San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee on Wednesday said the city is in crisis, struggling to put more housing units on the market, especially for middle class and low-income families.
It matched the message in the city’s Mission District, where protesters rallied over rising rents and evictions.
“Forget about low income housing- right now, it’s hard to find medium income housing,” said Tom Rapp. “It’s hard to find anything for under $3,000 a month.”
Rapp is facing an Ellis Act eviction from his apartment of 15 years. The state law allows landlords to pull their property from the rental market to put them up for sale. In San Francisco, Ellis Act evictions rose 81 percent in the past year.
Much of it is blamed on the city’s red hot real estate market, boosted by the influx of new tech companies and their workers. It has energized the city’s economy but many longtime renters say they’re being pushed out of their homes as real estate speculators try to make a big profit.
“I just feel that myself and other people who have contributed so much culturally are facing a form of cultural apartheid,” artist Rene Yanez told KTVU.
He and his partner were both recently diagnosed with cancer and said they are facing eviction next July.
At the unveiling of a new Natoma Street low-income housing development, Mayor Ed Lee said the project is emblematic of the problem the city faces.
“2800 people applied for 60 units,” Lee told reporters. “Tens of thousands is what we need to get at. And we do have some 40,000 already in the pipeline but I want to continue sustaining that, if not accelerate that.”
The Mayor said he is ordering city agencies to prioritize those projects including ones that offer affordable units either built into new projects or paid for by developers into a fund.
“We are responsible for the situation that we are in,” Lee said. “We, being generations of mayors, supervisors, everybody who didn’t invest in building more housing in the past.”
Lee said tech companies must be a part of the solution. “People, stop blaming tech companies. They want to actually be a part of the solution,” said Lee. “And I think it’s unfortunate that some voices wanna pit one economic sector that they view as successful against the rest of our challenge.”
Lee said the city is looking at converting some of its school district, public utilities and parks properties for new housing. Tenants’ rights activists said they’d like to see the city fight to repeal the state’s Ellis Act law, much as it battled to legalize same-sex marriage.
“In five years, San Francisco will be a place where only millionaires and billionaires can afford to live in,” said Rapp. “And we need solutions for now.”