If you rent in a newer San Francisco building -- anything built since 1979 -- your landlords can raise your rent as much as they want. Supervisor Aaron Peskin says that means even people who can afford one of San Francisco's expensive new apartments may eventually be priced out.
"All of the big buildings that are being built today are not subject to rent control," says Peskin. "And, even if you're paying top dollar, the next year, your rent can be raised another thousand dollars a month. It's not equitable."
A 1995 state law bars cities from expanding their rent-control laws. But Peskin, moving forward with a proposal he made during his campaign for the District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors, is exploring ways to expand rent control to newer buildings in the city.
Peskin says the situation in the city today "is not equitable. We have people who are in rent-control buildings and people who are not in rent-control buildings."
Peskin, who was sworn in as a supervisor last week, says he will ask the City Attorney's Office to study an idea he thinks will get around the state ban on extending rent control. He wants to explore the possibility of imposing controls on new developments for which the city has granted some "added benefit," such as adjustments in zoning to allow bigger or taller buildings than have previously existed at the sites.
"What we're proposing is that ... those new units be subject to rent control," Peskin says.
It's unclear how many projects would be affected by the proposal, but Peskin estimated that as many as 30,000 units could become rent-controlled under his proposal.
Tim Iglesias, a University of San Francisco law professor who specializes in housing law, says the City Attorney's Office may well be receptive to Peskin's proposal. But even so, it will face some serious pushback from the housing industry.
"And if it does get passed, I would immediately expect that they would bring a lawsuit to stop it," Iglesias said.
The San Francisco Apartment Association endorsed Peskin, who's a landlord himself, even though his platform included expanded rent control. Janan New, the group's executive director, says it's too soon to say whether it will file suit.
But, she says, Peskin should ask the city controller to consider the economic downside to his proposal "and what potential chilling effect that that would send to potential investors that want to come to San Francisco to do the right thing to build affordable housing."
Peskin says owners of new buildings are making plenty from the high rents they're already charging. As for people who can afford what look like sky-high rents now, he says, they may be in for a shock when it's time to renew their leases.
Peskin says he wants to get out ahead of what could be a future wave of displacement.