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Supervisors look to troubled tenants
as potential homeowners

By Aldrich M. Tan

May 17, 2006

Lucifer Chesar, 45, is a retired nurse living with AIDS. Chesar and his partner Chris Woitel, 36, have been offered a buyout of their apartment on 18th Street in Delores Park.

Chesar said he does not want to move.

"It's hard to watch your own life decay, let alone be forced to move and find another home," Chesar said.

After Supervisor Aaron Peskin's legislation regulating condominium conversion finally passed at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty made concerted efforts to address the needs of tenants specifically affected by such condominium conversions.

Supervisor Dufty introduced legislation that would give seniors, disabled and catastrophically ill long-term tenants the opportunity to own their housing. Supervisors Ammiano and Dufty requested for a hearing to examine the loss of funding to one specific group of protected tenants - people living with AIDS.

Peskin's ordinance prohibits the Department of Public Works from authorizing the condominium conversion of buildings that have had more than two evictions on and after May 1, 2005, or evictions specifically of seniors and disabled people.

The ordinance passed final reading 7 to 3 with Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd and Fiona Ma voting against the legislation.

"My legislation assures maximum protection for our city's most vulnerable tenants, which are the seniors, disabled, catastrophically ill," Peskin said. "They will still be residing in their homes after the legislation is approved."

Sponsored by Dufty, the Protected Owner Legislation would provide buildings interested in converting to condominiums with an incentive to keep protected tenants in the building and encourage those tenants to become owners of their own units

Under the legislation, buildings containing seniors, disabled and catastrophically ill long-term tenants can become eligible for condominium conversion only if the property's tenants pool their finances together to become homeowners. Such buildings would bypass the Department of Public Works' condominium lottery.

Dufty said his legislation would protect a large number of individuals living with AIDS who are being evicted out of their homes, Dufty said. Many individuals with AIDS are living healthy lives and have jobs or other financial resources available to them.

"People with AIDS choose to live in this city because of the high quality care and services that it provides," Dufty said.

However, many are being forced to leave their homes in mass numbers thanks to Ellis Act evictions and lost financial support, said Brian Basinger, director of the AIDS Housing Alliance.

In the past five years, the Ellis Act has emptied over 1,000 buildings and nearly one quarter of those buildings are concentrated in the Castro, Basinger said. An estimated number of 1,800 people have died of AIDS in San Francisco in the past five years.

"People with AIDS who lose their housing die faster at five times the rate of those who remain stably housed," Basinger said.

Chesar and Woitel said they currently pay $700 per month to live in their apartment.

"My legislation will transform the rent money into a potential home downpayment so that protected tenants don't have to move," Dufty said.

Supervisor Ammiano said he and Dufty's hearing will examine the lost of funding for housing for people with AIDS, especially regarding the loss of HOPWA, Ryan White CARE and San Francisco general fund money.

The hearing will review impacts of the lost funding and ask relevant City Departments and Community Stakeholders to explore new strategies that ensure AIDS housing money is provided.

Political activist Cara Vita said she has seen many of her friends living with AIDS being evicted from their homes.

"It's not a crime to be sick," Vita said. "It's not a crime to be poor. We have to make sure that people with AIDS are not displaced from their housing."

Ammiano said he hopes the hearing and Dufty's proposed legislation will increase the opportunities for the catastrophically ill to live in San Francisco

"I hope we will have a positive impact by focusing on a key base largely affected by condominium conversion," Ammiano said.




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