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San Francisco | Fault Lines | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Rent is Theft, Housing is a Human Right
by Tommi Avicolli Mecca ( info [at] faultlines.org )
Sunday Jun 24th, 2007 1:39 AM
The housing situation in San Francisco is a prime example of the greatest evil of capitalism. Only those who can afford it get to be housed. Everyone else lives on the streets. They get trash talked by neighbors and politicians alike for the sin of being homeless. They are arrested or cited with “quality of life” citations.

The situation couldn’t be worse—unless you throw into the mix the fact that landlords in San Francisco have the ultimate weapon against tenants they want to get rid of: The Ellis Act. Even with all of the tenant protections, renters have in a “progressive” enclave such as San Francisco, one can be tossed out into a housing market where rents are astronomical, just because some speculator wants to turn a building into over- priced tenancies-in-common (TICs, pronounced like the bloodsucking critter).

Various solutions have been proposed for the housing crisis in San Francisco. Most of these options involve band-aiding a system that is problematic to begin with. Real change will only come by changing how we do housing in America. That means housing can no longer be a commodity. As long as it is, there will be a basic inequity: those who can afford to rent or buy versus those who can’t. Housing is a basic human need and should be guaranteed, just as healthcare is in many countries.

In the meantime before we get to that point, however, there are things that affordable housing advocates in San Francisco can fight for. They’re still band-aids on a sick system, but they will give working-class and poor people more of a chance at affording to live here. They include:

1) A moratorium on market-rate housing. The last thing San Francisco needs is more housing for the rich.

2) A moratorium on condo conversions. Every condo that is converted from the rent-controlled stock is the loss of a unit that’s price is controlled while the tenant lives there—not to mention displaces a person paying low rent.

3) Vacancy control, which puts price restrictions on a unit after the tenant moves out. Under vacancy control, a landlord can only jack up the rent a small percentage for the next tenant. Right now, it’s prohibited by state law (Costa-Hawkins).

4) Community land trusts. The land is purchased by a nonprofit entity and taken off the market forever. The tenants who live there either rent or purchase at 30 percent of their income. It is similar to a co-op, only there is no equity in a land trust.

5) Squatter’s rights. If a building is vacant, why can’t people make use of it?

A radical, southern Italian, working-class queer, Tommi Avicolli Mecca works by day for the Housing Rights Committee of SF, a tenant’s rights organization.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Mark
Friday Sep 21st, 2007 5:12 PM
"1) A moratorium on market-rate housing. The last thing San Francisco needs is more housing for the rich. "

Yes, since you own all property, you have the right to use force to stop people from building on your property.

"2) A moratorium on condo conversions. Every condo that is converted from the rent-controlled stock is the loss of a unit that’s price is controlled while the tenant lives there—not to mention displaces a person paying low rent."

Right. You own all property, so you have the right to use force to prevent people from deciding how to use your property.

"3) Vacancy control, which puts price restrictions on a unit after the tenant moves out. Under vacancy control, a landlord can only jack up the rent a small percentage for the next tenant. Right now, it’s prohibited by state law (Costa-Hawkins). "

Again, since you own all property you have the right to decide what the rents will be.

"4) Community land trusts. The land is purchased by a nonprofit entity and taken off the market forever. The tenants who live there either rent or purchase at 30 percent of their income. It is similar to a co-op, only there is no equity in a land trust. "

Fine.

"5) Squatter’s rights. If a building is vacant, why can’t people make use of it? "

Well, you own all property, so why not?
by Confused
Sunday Dec 2nd, 2007 8:40 PM
Only those who can afford it? Actually, its really simple. If you get up and get a job, you will be able to afford a home. If you chose to sit around and wait for free handouts, dont expect much.
by renter
Wednesday Dec 5th, 2007 12:50 PM
How is rent theft? If someone purchases a property, pays the mortgage on it, then rents it out, how is that theft? do you expect people to pay mortgages so that others can live freely?
by luci
Wednesday Dec 5th, 2007 1:10 PM
Hi, Rent is theft because everyone should have housing. Living in a situation where you have to pay someone who bought "extra" housing so he could make a profit is torture for those of us who want to have a world that is based on equality, mutual aid, and respect.
by Journey
Sunday Apr 26th, 2009 10:31 PM
I love the folks that believe so very hard in the American Dream. Just work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and everything will be hunky dory peachy keen dandy fine. Right.
As an individual that worked three jobs (that's right, seven am to 11 pm 6-7 days a week) and still could barely make rent on the minuscule one bedroom apartment that sheltered other peoples discarded pets...let me tell you; BULLSH*T. There is nothing shameful about someone wanting to have a life and a place to live. Minimum wage is not a living wage, and a college degree doesn't instantly land you in a high paying job. Don't get me started on student loans. I know more single parents of various sexes and genders that work harder than the nuclear family, and take more flak about their 'shortcomings' than anyone would throw at a nuclear family that had the same difficulties. So the next time people feel like pinning everything on the 'slacker' walk a mile beside them first. You may just learn something.
by Kristy
Thursday Dec 10th, 2009 12:05 PM
It's good there are people out there that get the point.
by BB
Wednesday Aug 3rd, 2011 12:11 PM
Let me guess. You are a neocon who has been given everything from birth by a wealthy family. You will go on to inherit their wealth and do everything you can to screw those who have nothing, because, after all, they "deserve" their poverty. [Because they are lazy; stupid, etc.]
There are as many reasons for poverty as there are for its victims. Only someone who has NOT gone hungry, feared homelessness or does not know the constant terror of what tomorrow will bring when one works several jobs paying slave wages and STILL has to make decisions about what bill to pay vs eating, has your callous, sociopathic attitude. I hope you are in this situation someday. At the very least, it may conjure some empathy from the bottom of that empty soul of yours toward others in situations which you cannot judge because you know not of what you speak.