This op-ed was written by a colleague of mine in San Francisco, Bill Shireman. His organization, Future 500 is a client.
I have written a number of times about the City by the Bay at ACC. It is a fascinating place. A refuge for the weird and for the rich and for the weird and rich. Jammed onto the tip of a peninsula, space is at a serious premium. Throw in a government which is very very “liberal” and all sorts of strange economic phenomena occur.
The natural result is that many people like me don’t want to be landlords anymore. It’s just not worth it. Thousands of San Franciscans have made that choice. There are at least 31,000 units lying empty in the city — enough to immediately increase the housing stock 10 percent — and by very conservative estimates, another 100,000 empty rooms that could be turned into small rental units. We could increase the housing stock 30 percent, virtually overnight, by attracting those units to the market.
Instead, the strategy seems to be to give tenants situation-specific sticks to make it as difficult as possible for landlords to stop renting a unit. In the narrow cases where it is legal, landlords often have to pay tenants thousands of dollars, or do battle at the rent board, to move.
Who wants to be a small-time landlord, when the results can be financially disastrous? Not many of us. That leaves the system with too many big-time exploiters, both landlords and tenants.