January 27, 2022
Yesterday, the San Francisco Public Press reported, “More than 18,000 households had asked for over $289.4 million in rent and utility assistance as of last week.” This amount is nearly 60% more than what is currently allocated to San Franciscans. On January 7, the New York Times reported on federal rental assistance running out and quoted Greg Brown, senior vice president of governmental affairs at the National Apartment Association. Mr. Brown admitted, “There clearly is more need than there were dollars allocated.”
It is with these facts in mind that the Veritas Tenants Association announces the end of their 5-month debt strike and groundbreaking concessions from Veritas Investments, a $4.5 billion real estate investment firm and the largest landlord in San Francisco. On condition of strikers submitting applications to the state rent-relief program, the VTA won:
- A written commitment from Veritas to cancel all remaining rent debt for Veritas tenants;
- An initial commitment from Veritas to discuss economic relief for “shadow debt”;
- A waiver of annual rent increases for 2022.
None of these concessions would have happened without the sacrifice and vision of the VTA. In October 2021, Veritas emailed tenants and said that any rent debt not covered by government rent relief funds must be paid by the resident. Because of the VTA, that is no longer the case. Last year, Veritas indicated to the VTA that they intended to start imposing rent increases in 2022. Because of the VTA, that is no longer the case — though Veritas’ current commitment only extends to tenants with rent debt.
Veritas has committed in writing to engage “with residents who can demonstrate that they accrued personal debt to pay rent and would otherwise have qualified for rental relief under AB 832.” Because of the VTA, Veritas is beginning to take the issue of “shadow debt” more seriously. However, Veritas has yet to create an accessible process or program for tenants with shadow debt, and the VTA will continue to hold Veritas to its word.
With these concessions, the VTA hopes to send a resounding message to local and state lawmakers: Our state’s largest landlords can and should shoulder an equitable portion of pandemic debt. Despite eviction threats and intimidation tactics, the VTA is showing the way.