Gentrification and Rising Rents Discussed at Forum
The people with the Occupy SF Housing Working Group provided an information packed forum on July 16 demonstrating what has been happening to the housing scene in SF and offering a variety of examples of how people have fought back against gentrification and rising rents.
Ted Gullickson of the SF Tenants Union described the causes behind rising rents, especially during the late 90's dot-com boom and during the current one. With the increase in well paid tenants, landlords and realtors try to evict long term, rent-controlled tenants, often illegally, so they can significantly increase rent and profits.
This in turn results in a loss of affordable housing and diversity in neighborhoods. Political power shifts to wealthier people, and those with lower incomes (such as seniors, people of color, etc.) are marginalized. The percentage of renters drops and that of homeowners rises, creating increased demand and thus increased prices for rental units. More people are pushed into the streets. Communities are broken up, and family life, especially for children, is disrupted by forced moves.
Gullickson said realtors and developers will often target an area for gentrification. One building at a time, they try to evict tenants, refurbish rental units and dramatically increase rents. Small local businesses also suffer large rent increases when their landlords see the potential to increase profits by renting to a high end restaurant or boutiques.
In some neighborhoods, people are becoming organized and fighting back. People who resist eviction have a good chance of remaining in their homes. People need to educate themselves so they know their rights. Landlords and developers frequently break housing the laws.
Many people shared personal experiences of evictions. Enthusiasm was shown for fighting the housing battle on various fronts. Attending Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings is a way to let local politicians know people want the city to enforce the laws already on its books and to write new protective legislation. Some suggested squatting could be part of the answer. It was made clear that a key task will be spotlighting and contesting the role that profit hungry landlords, banks and developers play in the local housing crisis.