For the past 15 months, every counseling clinic in this coalition has been flooded with calls from hundreds of tenants a week who cannot pay rent and are terrified that they will lose their housing. We have fought hard for the emergency eviction protections in place today, but we also know that without a commitment to addressing the accumulating debt, they have only deferred the crisis for too many people.
To ensure that San Francisco would have the resources to address this rent debt, we worked hard to pass Proposition I in November 2021. This measure taxes big real estate transactions to pay for rent relief and permanent affordable housing and was enthusiastically backed by voters across the city. Now, Prop I is expected to bring in $128 million in the next fiscal year!
While federal funds have designated $90 million in rent relief to San Francisco tenants, it has been slow to be released, and we know it is not enough to meet the immense need. The City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that there is between $150 and $350 million in accumulated rent debt since the beginning of the pandemic. This does not even account for the debt that continues to accrue, as unemployment remains well above pre-pandemic levels.
A third of San Franciscans have reported going into some kind of debt during this crisis, sometimes borrowing from friends and family, living off of credit cards, and going hungry in order to avoid rent debt. Too many people have already lost their homes, often self-evicting out of fear of accumulating any more impossibly huge debt. Many will have to leave the city forever. This is a permanent and irreversible loss for our city that we have the resources to stop. We passed Prop I to generate these resources, but the Mayor has, until now, refused to allocate them for their intended purpose.
During this week’s budget negotiations, the Mayor and Board were finally able to strike a deal to allocate $32 million of these funds for rent relief. We will continue to work to ensure that the remaining $96 million goes towards ongoing stabilization for San Francisco renters, either as rent relief or towards securing permanently affordable housing.
Supes make deal to fund $32 million in rent-relief for needy SF tenants, Tim Redmond, 48hills, June 30, 2021.
San Franciscans to get $32 million for rent relief in last-minute budget deal, Mallory Moench, SF Chronicle, June 30, 2021