SF Nonprofits Seal Deal to Keep Tenants in Place

Tracy Parent of the Community Land Trust introduces Rene Yañez, one of the tenants whose evictions was halted as a result of the purchase.

The San Francisco Community Land Trust and the Mission Economic Development Agency today announced the conclusion of a deal in the works since last summer that will preserve five multi-unit buildings citywide, two of them in the Mission, as perpetually affordable housing.

The buildings, one of which houses renowned Mission artist Rene Yañez and his family, were formerly owned by the notorious Iantorno family, which owns as many as 70 properties around the city and had previously filed Ellis Act evictions against the tenants.

“I feel very fortunate. People call me Juan in a million,” said Yañez.

The acquisition is part of the city’s Small Sites Program, designed to keep people who are most at risk of eviction in place. A study by the Mission Economic Development Agency indicated that buildings with fewer than 20 units are the most likely target of real estate speculation and evictions.

“As the result of guidance from and cooperation with the mayor and Supervisor Jane Kim, the Iantorno family was able to transfer five properties” to the city, said Paolo Iantorno, speaking on behalf of the family. The five buildings were sold to the city for a total of $8.15 million.

“Ultimately the staff of the Mayor’s Office of Housing were instrumental in getting these deals closed,” he said, adding that the family would be taking another of their properties, 630 Guerrero Street, off the market altogether.

Tenants will now have leases with the nonprofits, before being offered to transfer the buildings to cooperative ownership in some five years.

“If you can fight your eviction, you can win. If you don’t fight, you can’t win,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee, adding that “the city needs to be funding more of this.”

Several others in the housing nonprofit community echoed that sentiment. Indeed, Mayor Ed Lee said at a press conference in front of one of the purchased buildings in SoMa announcing the sale that he has been working with other city representatives to ensure “that the example that we have had on these five properties with these 19 families can be repeated over and over again.”

MEDA’s two buildings, 380 San Jose Avenue and 642 Guerrero Street, cost a total of $3.2 million for four units apiece, averaging $400,000 per unit. The Community Land Trust purchased three more buildings citywide.

The cost of all five buildings came out to about $429,000 per unit, which is fairly economical for San Francisco, Supervisor Jane Kim pointed out.

“At a time when the cost of new housing is up to $450,000 to $500,000 per door, it’s not so far off from new construction,” Kim said. “Purchase is immediate. The tenants are [secure] in their home today.”

But some work still remains to be done. Tracy Parent, the organizational director of the Community Land Trust, said the buildings need roughly $300,000 worth of renovations each for things like systems upgrades, new windows, foundation retrofits, and some new kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

Each of the buildings also has at least one empty unit where previous tenants either moved out or accepted buyouts to vacate. These, Parent said, will be renovated and marketed through the city’s below-market-rate housing program, and rents will be set up to be affordable for those earning 100 to 120 percent of the area median income. For a one-bedroom, that means rents of roughly $2,000 to $2,500 a month. The “moderate income” rents will offset the very low rents coming in from existing tenants.

“We’ll never need city subsidy ever again,” Parent said.

The city, nonprofits, and landlord in these cases also won’t need to spend any more time or money in court fighting over an eviction. In one building, tenants and their landlord were wrapped up in eviction proceedings for more than 10 years. One tenant has lived in the building for 40 years.

“Can you imagine, 40 years and you’re going to be uprooted from your community?” asked Angelica Cabande of the South of Market Community Action Network. “I hope you will continue fighting with us.”

Parent put out a call to landlords.

“If you have a building and you really want to get out of the business of being a landlord, call the Land Trust, call MEDA,” she said.

Lee, too, described the success of the deal as a message to landlords.

“If you want to get out of the business of being a property owner, okay, no problem. But you don’t have to evict long term tenants to do so,” he said at the press conference. “I am grateful to the Iantorno family for showing sensitivity and basically saying, ‘You can accomplish with the community in collaboration more than if you fought against the community.’”

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One Comment

  1. JJ Noire

    While this is lovely, we need many many studios & one bedrooms in the $400-600 range, which is what people on minimum wage can afford.

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