In San Francisco, the latest battle between tenant advocates and property owners embodies emotionally charged exaggerations, misplaced blame, and a blind eye to fair solutions. The problem is there simply aren't enough vacant apartments to house people who move to San Francisco.
Tenant advocate groups and some local lawmakers will tell you that greedy property owners are abusing the Ellis Act to capitalize on this scenario. They also would have you believe that landlords are causing an eviction crisis, using Ellis to unburden themselves of rent-controlled apartments occupied by longtime working class folks who ensure The City’s diverse social and cultural fabric. The truth, however, is that landlords use the Ellis Act to leave the rental housing business -- often to avoid bankruptcy.
The prevalence of Ellis Act evictions is also overblown. Approximately 120 took place in San Francisco last year. It is wrong to paint a picture of property owners as using Ellis to empty rent-controlled units en masse and fill them with high-paying tech workers.
Such a description makes property owners a scapegoat for a city that has overregulated its existing housing stock and hasn’t focused on building enough housing for residents of all income levels. Building more housing – adding supply to lower demand and lower rent prices – is the answer, not taking away a property owner’s right, under state law, to quit the rental housing business or to move into his or her own unit.