Within a few days of the fire that destroyed their homes at 22nd and Mission streets, the 65 displaced tenants were told repeatedly how city officials and rights groups were there to serve them, would help them and would guide them on their long round-trip journey back to their apartments. After all, tenants were assured, they had a right to return to their homes at their former rent.
For distraught residents, it all sounded so hopeful, but it’s becoming clear how long and arduous the process will be. Rent Commissioner and tenant lawyer Cathy Mosbrucker said that in general, “it’s unlikely” for tenants displaced by fires to return to their buildings.
“Generally, the work after a fire takes quite a long time, because first you have insurance issues and then permitting issues and then people who are out. The longer they’re out, the more likely they are to find permanent replacement housing and not be that interested in moving back,” Mosbrucker said.
Repairs often take years to complete — and Mission and 22nd will be no exception. In the meantime, tenants make new lives. They enroll children in new schools, find new clinics, make new friends and, as time passes, returning is just another disruption.