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Board of Supervisors Makes Ellis Evictions More Costly for Landlords

Scott Lucas | April 9, 2014 | Story Politics

Whether or not the use of the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants when taking buildings off the rental market, is a prime driver of the housing affordability crisis is a difficult question to answer. But what's more clear, according to tenant advocates and members of the Board of Supervisors, is the high toll that such evictions take on affected individuals—of which there were at least 216 last year.

As part of ongoing efforts to roll back the worst of it, the Board last night passed a bill that would sharply increase the payment that landlords who invoke the Ellis Act are required to make to tenants. Prior to Supervisor Campos's bill's passage, landlords had been required to pay $5,261 per tenant.

Under the new law, relocation costs will increase to the difference between the tenant’s current rent and what the tenant would have to pay for a similar apartment for two years. According to calculations by the City Controller's Office, that amount could range from $44,000 for a longtime Mission resident to $47,000 for a Sunset renter.

The bill passed on a 9 to 2 vote, with Supervisors Mark Farrell and Katy Tang voting no. The Board also passed a bill by Supervisor Wiener that would allow the creation of in-law units, some of which would be rent controlled, in the Castro.

The move comes as a Sacramento committee passed State Senator Mark Leno's bill, which would close what he calls a loophole in the state law that allows real estate speculators to invoke the act.

It's a political win for Campos, who is running for a seat in the State Assembly against Board President David Chiu. But will the Campos law cut down on the number of Ellis evictions? It seems hard to imagine that raising the disincentives for landlords won't have an affect—or that it will hit small owners with less working capital—harder than large operations.

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