Bailout Madness Coming for City Renters

Four proposals could change the lives of San Francisco renters

Welcome to bailout nation. In San Francisco alone there are four new plans to rescue the city's renters.

Locally the Fillmore is still fuming after San Francisco gave more bailout money to Yoshi's and nationally President Barack Obama handed out more cash to General Motors on Monday.

While this bailout doesn't come in the form of a cash handout, it could affect how much rent you pay and whether you can find an apartment in the city at all.

One measure, pushed by a Board of Supervisors committee to provide relief for renters struggling to pay on the first of the month during the recession, is getting the most buzz. The proposal would suspend any rent increases that cause a renter's monthly bill to exceed 33 percent of their income and assets. The full board will vote on it on June 23.

Critics believe the proposal goes too far and would actually makes it more difficult for low-income families to find an apartment, rent-controlled or no. A bailout that doesn't help the people? Shocker.

Landlords are already threatening that the move will prompt some of them to pull units off of the market to protect themselves from being stuck with low-rent tenants. The move would increase demand and cause rents to rise again, according to experts.

"The problem is it's always a one-way street," Robert Link, a principal at S&L Realty in San Francisco, told the Chronicle. "There's no adjustment when the market moves up and people are locked into leases for life."

Mayor Gavin Newsom has already said that he will veto the bill for that very reason. It also doesn't hurt that the measure was introduced by his arch nemesis Supervisor Chris Daly.

"You have the unintended consequence of landlords only renting to very wealthy people," Newsom told the San Francisco Examiner last week. And Newsom, a business-friendly mayor who comes from a rich family, knows all about very wealthy people.

The issue has already caused a stir for renters and the politicians involved in the vote.

Dozens of landlords and tenants filled a city hall room during last Thursday's committee meeting only to see Daly and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell clash over the bill even before public comment even started. 

The three other rent-control measures being discussed, including one aimed to help renters stay in foreclosed properties, have not appeared before the full board yet.

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