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KCBS Cover Story Series: Through the Roof – Solutions To SF’s Housing Crunch

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Vacancy Rate For U.S. Apartments Reaches Highest Rate In 20 Years
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The housing crunch has reached a tipping point for San Francisco city officials who have been scrambling to come up with solutions to the crisis.

The highest median rents, a record low vacancy rate, and hundreds of evictions have led to calls from city leaders for San Francisco to get its priorities straight.

“Is San Francisco going to be a city that will allow low income and middle income people to live here? Unless something changes, I’m afraid that the answer will be no,” said Supervisor David Campos.

Mayor Ed Lee agrees, issuing an executive order this week to expedite housing construction and offer more assistance to evicted renters.

“Everyone, including tech people, are concerned about housing affordability. We’re only 49 square miles. A lot of people want to live here, but I also am a mayor that wants to make sure everyone who wants to be here and have been here a long time can stay here,” Lee said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu wants additional measures such as legalizing thousands of in-law units and amending the state’s Ellis Act eviction law.

“There is no one silver bullet. We have to think about building housing, protecting the housing stock that we already have, protecting seniors and families, and low income residents, from being displaced,” Chiu said.

The city needs to go even further than that, said Tommi Avicolli Mecca with the Housing Rights Committee. He has proposed rolling back rents or declaring a moratorium on evictions.

“We need to treat these things like epidemics,” he said.

But with some 6,000 new rental apartments nearing completion, Javan New at the San Francisco Apartment Association which represents landlords, believes relief is in sight.

“Because we’re such a small city, that’ll take the heat off of the market right away,” she said.

Too much blame has been pinned on newly arrived tech workers, New said.

Riley Strong, a young software engineer at Square, is hoping those new units will mean the end to his long search for housing.

“That will hopefully alleviate some of the stress,” he said, adding that his company has been sensitive to the housing problem in San Francisco.

“We’re here to stay and we really want to be part of the community and help San Francisco,” he said.

The uncertainty Strong and his colleagues might face looking for a place that’s affordable pales in comparison to the stress faced by those with lesser means or resources, countered Avicolli Mecca.

“Where are they going? Who knows. They’re scattering. Are we stuck with this forever? I mean, how much worse can it get?” Avicolli Mecca said?

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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