RPT-San Francisco debates making evictions more costly

Wed Feb 5, 2014 6:56am EST

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(Repeats for wider distribution)

By Laila Kearney

SAN FRANCISCO Feb 5 (Reuters) - A San Francisco councilman proposed a law on Tuesday that would require a landlord evicting tenants from a rent-controlled building to subsidize their rents for two years after they relocated.

The West Coast city, a global technology hub, is one of the nation's priciest rental markets, where officials are making efforts to stem evictions and prevent an exodus of tenants in search of cheaper housing.

"It is urgent that we act today to help evicted tenants continue to live in our city," said San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the ordinance at the group's meeting on Tuesday.

His proposal evokes the Ellis Act, a California law that allows property owners to evict tenants if they want to take a building off the rental market.

It states that, in case of such evictions, a landlord would be obliged to pay for two years the difference between the rent he was charging and what his former tenants would pay for comparable accommodation on the open market.

Campos' proposal, which has drawn fire on cost and implementation grounds from landlords and developers, is still at the committee stage. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who would need to sign it into law, has supported making Ellis Act evictions more expensive for landlords.

San Francisco currently requires landlords using the act for eviction to pay each tenant relocation assistance amounts of $5,261 - with a cap of $15,783 per accommodation unit - and an additional $3,508 for each elderly or disabled evictee.

Under Campos' proposal, landlords would pay tenants the projected rate increases - as calculated by the city controller - or the standard $5,261, whichever was greater.

Evictions in the city rose 25 percent to 1,716 in the 12 months to February 2013, city officials said.

The median rent on a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco rose 10 percent over the last year to $3,250, according to online real-estate company Trulia. (Reporting by Laila Kearney in San Francisco; Writing by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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