Real estate groups sue San Francisco over laws aimed at housing crisis

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The San Francisco Association of Realtors, the San Francisco Apartment Association, the Coalition for Better Housing, and the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute have filed lawsuits against the city of San Francisco over two housing regulations signed into law in December.

The new laws prohibit the merging of units and the issuance of city permits for work on “nonconforming units” for 10 years after an eviction under the state’s Ellis Act or for five years following an owner move-in eviction. The Ellis Act allows property owners to evict tenants if they no longer want to be in the rental business. Displaced tenants must be compensated.

Last month, Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the new housing legislation, called the laws “two very strong tools to protect existing rent-controlled affordable housing stock from real estate speculation that is playing havoc with our community,” the SF Examiner reported.

But the real estate groups suing the city criticized the laws for hampering necessary repair work and preventing property owners from accommodating the needs of their growing families.

“The San Francisco Association of Realtors supports the rights of private property owners for the free use of their property as their needs suit them. This legislation only exacerbates the problems families face in finding adequate housing and drives out the families that have created the diversity we want and celebrate in our city,” said Walt Baczkowski, the trade group’s CEO, in a statement.

The impact of tech workers moving into San Francisco on home prices and rents recently prompted demonstrations in the city, where protesters blocked shuttle buses taking workers to Google and Facebook.

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