Sen. Leno, Mayor Lee, San Francisco Leaders Advocate for Amendments to Ellis Act to Protect Longtime Tenants

November 14, 2013

Real Estate Speculators Using the Ellis Act to Displace Low-Income Tenants in San Francisco; Coalition Group to Advocate for Necessary Changes to State Law

San Francisco, CA—Mayor Edwin M. Lee today joined State and local leaders, including Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymember Phil Ting and Supervisors David Chiu and David Campos to advocate for changes in State law to allow cities and counties more flexibility to regulate Ellis Act evictions.

In light of the growing problem of speculative Ellis Act evictions, Mayor Lee formed a broad coalition comprised of State and local leaders, tenant rights groups, senior and disability advocacy organizations, eviction defense lawyers and advocates from around the State to help address the issue of affordability for working class families in California’s major metropolitan areas.

Enacted as State law in 1985, the Ellis Act allows owners to evict tenants, and quickly turn buildings into Tenancy In Common (TIC) units for resale on the market. In San Francisco, the units that are being cleared are often rent controlled and are home to seniors and low-income San Franciscans. When these affordable rental units are removed from the market, they never return.

“I am pleased to be working with the Mayor and other city and state officials on ways we can protect our long term and most vulnerable renters from being displaced from some of the last remaining affordable housing in the City,” said Senator Leno. “Unfortunately, the Ellis Act is too often being abused by real estate speculators looking for a quick profit. Given that only 15 percent of San Franciscans can afford new market rate rentals, a large segment of our City's population is at risk of losing their homes through abuses of the Ellis Act. This must stop, so that families with children, seniors, the disabled and others who form the unique fabric of our City can continue to live here.”

“We have to protect our valuable housing stock and prevent Ellis Act evictions that displace longtime tenants and do nothing to add needed housing in our City,” said Mayor Lee. “While we have some of the best tenant protections in the country, there are a small number of speculators out there who are turning a quick profit at the expense of long time tenants. A carve out for San Francisco is good policy and will help us support middle income and working families here in San Francisco. At the same time, we must continue to build the thousands of new homes we need for our growing workforce, including new permanently affordable homes for our working families.”

“San Francisco has an affordable housing crisis,” said Assemblymember Ting. “We need to prevent the tragic displacement of families from their homes.  Every issue must be on the table, including the Ellis Act, affordability, and supply.  We want to bring together all the stakeholders, including tenant advocates and real estate experts, to craft a package of solutions to address these problems.”

“We simply cannot tolerate these escalating evictions in our City,” said Supervisor Chiu. “We need serious reform of California's housing laws to keep real estate speculation from displacing more San Franciscans. I am committed to working with Mayor Lee, my colleagues, our State legislative leaders and advocates to ensure that we are protecting tenants and affordable housing.”

“Addressing this housing crisis will require all hands on deck and I welcome working with tenants, advocates, the Mayor, our state delegation, and other Supervisors to keep San Franciscans in their homes,” said Supervisor Campos.