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    Time to End the “Tale of Two Cities”

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    Supervisor David Campos (3rd from Left) sits with tenants facing eviction in the Mission District. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAVID CAMPOS

    By David Campos

    Our housing crisis has reached epidemic proportions. The median home price in San Francisco is $1 million, and even the closet-sized “micro apartments” that are supposed to be affordable cost $2,000 per month. Hundreds of tenants are evicted each year, and thousands of rent-controlled apartments have been lost in the last decade while luxury condos spring up in every neighborhood. San Francisco-born residents are being forced from their city, and seniors, disabled and the poor are enduring the largest burden of the pain. Beyond that, practically every San Francisco renter is just one eviction notice away from being forced to leave this city that we all love. No one is immune.

    My plan to address this housing crisis, which I call “Affordable First,” starts by putting the little guy first.

    We have had enough so-called “solutions” that are merely incentives to the real estate industry, speculators and landlords. They haven’t worked, and San Francisco deserves better. My four-part plan focuses instead on protecting rent controlled units, building affordable housing NOW, significantly raising the minimum wage, and making sure San Francisco workers can purchase health insurance with the money their employers must spend under our local Healthy San Francisco law.

    Our first priority must be to protect rent controlled housing, which makes up over 50% of the City’s price controlled housing that isn’t vulnerable to whims of the market. In Sacramento, I am working with Assemblymember Ammiano to change a State law called the Ellis Act that allows landlords to evict rent controlled tenants in order to sell those units off to individuals willing to pay high prices. But we can’t count on Sacramento to solve our problems. That’s why I am working on two pieces of local legislation that will address the immediate crisis.

    I am working to require that landlords pay relocation assistance amounts that will allow tenants to actually continue living in San Francisco for at least two years when landlords evict using the Ellis Act. I am also working to regulate “buy-outs” – where landlords give tenants a lump sum of money to “voluntarily” leave their units.

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    Supervisor David Campos and City College Commissioner Rafael Mandelman join with protestors at the tenants rights protest held in the Castro on the anniversary of the night Harvey MIlk and George Moscon were killed at SF City Hall. PHOTO BY STEVEN UNDERHILL

    Second, we must increase San Francisco’s housing supply – something almost everyone agrees on. However, while many argue that increasing market rate housing will trickle down and reduce prices for all of us, I disagree. This strategy hasn’t worked in New York and it won’t work in San Francisco. Instead, I believe we need policies that will tie market rate production directly to the production of affordable housing and that encourage developers to build affordable housing on-site of their luxury developments.

    Third, we must significantly raise the minimum wage. Even with improved housing policies, San Francisco will never be an inexpensive place to live. We must increase wages for the City’s lowest paid workers so they have a chance to live in the City they serve. I believe $15/hour should be the minimum, minimum wage.

    Finally, I believe healthcare is directly linked to wages and has a tremendous effect not only on a worker’s physical wellbeing, but also on his or her pocketbook. While it is fantastic that Obamacare is finally in effect, because San Francisco is such a high cost City, even subsidized insurance will remain out of reach for many workers. Luckily, our Healthy San Francisco law requires employers to spend money – between $1.63- $2.44 per hour worked – on healthcare. I am working right now to close a loophole in the Healthy San Francisco law, so that all workers can use this money to purchase health insurance. This way, San Francisco workers can meet their individual mandate under Obamacare without dipping into their wages that they desperately need for rent, food, transportation, and other basic needs.

    The tale of two cities that is dividing San Francisco’s richest from the rest of us must end. I will not stop working to create policies that make it a real possibility for middle and working class San Franciscans to live here too.

    David Campos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is running for the California State Assembly seat of Tom Ammiano.