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Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

SF Examiner Article, December 1, 2020

By Joshua Sabatini

San Francisco will require landlords to report rental unit information annually including how many are vacant and how much tenants are paying them in rent under legislation approved Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve Supervisor Sandra Fewer’s “Housing Inventory” legislation intended to help The City better enforce regulations protecting tenants and craft housing policies.

Fewer called the reporting “long overdue.”

“By providing a more accurate picture of our rental housing stock in San Francisco, this Housing Inventory will help the Rent Board better do its job and will benefit The City as a whole,” she said.

“If we are going to make important decisions about how to ensure housing affordability, how to stop displacement, how to protect tenants, we need information,”

Supervisor Matt Haney

The approval came despite objections from dozens of rental property owners who criticized the proposal as an invasion of privacy and burdensome bureaucracy.

Board president Norman Yee said the proposal “is not meant to punish or vilify anyone.”

“We simply need more information and data,” Yee said. “In order for us to address the housing shortage, we have to better understand the number of units we have available so we can plan ahead.”

Landlords with 10 units or more must begin reporting the data to the Rent Board by July 1, 2022 and by March 1 in subsequent years. Those who own rental properties with under 10 units will first report the data by March 1, 2023.

The requirement is expected to apply to approximately 233,518 units.

Data that must be reported each year includes how much tenants are paying in rents, the square footage of the units, what services are included in the rents, such as gas and trash, and when the units became vacant or occupied. The reports must also include name and business contact of the owner of the units or the property manager.

The new housing inventory program will be funded through a surcharge on the existing $50 Rent Board fee, which is split between landlords and tenants. The program is expected to cost up to $3.3 million to implement in the first year, which would result in a surcharge of $14 per unit, and about $2.8 million in subsequent years with a surcharge of $12 per unit.

The Rent Board would hire new staff to implement it and plans to establish an online reporting system for landlords to submit their data.

The proposal was backed by the Housing Rights Committee.

“Other cities have this infrastructure and because of it, rents can be stabilized and governed with clarity,” Cynthia Fong, an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee, said in a statement.

Supervisor Matt Haney said, “It is so ridiculous that to find out information about something as important as rents and vacancies in our own city that we are looking at Zillow and Craigslist and online sources that are clearly inaccurate and don’t provide the full picture.”

“If we are going to make important decisions about how to ensure housing affordability, how to stop displacement, how to protect tenants, we need information,” he said.

The board is scheduled to take a second and final vote on the legislation next week.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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