SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Responding to a lack of affordable housing in San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee announced an executive order putting construction of new units on the fast track. The move comes amid protests over an increasing number of evictions under the state’s Ellis Act.

Lee announced the executive order Wednesday, during a visit to a new 60 unit affordable development in the South of Market that will welcome tenants next month. Considering the demand, the new units will be a drop in the bucket.

“Guess what? 2,800 people applied for 60 units,” Lee said driving the point home.

With rising rents in San Francisco getting much-publicized attention, Lee ordered all permit applications for new affordable housing construction to be moved to the head of the line. In addition, he wants to make it harder to demolish existing units and create an advisory body to look at other housing being withdrawn from the market.

Lee said this order was in response to “what everybody’s accepted as this city’s housing challenge and housing crisis.”

Randy Shaw, non-profit housing developer and executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, applauded the mayor’s action.

“For the very first time, all the departments will be coordinated into a working group to prevent the loss of any housing units,” he said.

The mayor’s working group has been told to submit recommendations to increase San Francisco’s affordable housing stock by February 1st.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco’s Mission District, more than 100 opponents of Ellis Act evictions rallied in front of Dattani Realty on 22nd near Mission Street.

It was the second protest in as many weeks in the area to bring attention to the state law that permits no-fault evictions, which is displacing scores of long-time residents.

Carmen Simon with Eviction Free San Francisco said the realtor’s owner has evicted multiple households in the area using the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to empty buildings to get out of the rental business.

“This is a fight for our working-class communities, for our communities of color, for our immigrant communities,” Simon said.

Opponents of the Ellis Act said the law lets landlords get around rent control and often those displaced can’t find affordable housing in the red-hot San Francisco market.

“They see that they can make more money on your flat, they will Ellis Act you. They will get you out so they can make even more money,” said Patricia Kerman, a disabled senior.

Kerman is being evicted after 27 years in her home. She and her roommate Tom Rapp has been given until August to leave.

“In five years this will just be a city for millionaires and billionaires. Right now, forget about low-income people, right now it’s difficult for medium-income people to find housing,” Rapp said.

Dattani Realty declined to comment.

Simon said her organization’s ultimate goal is to get the Ellis Act repealed.

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

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