New study: Data Shows New Housing and Tenant Protections Are Still Not Enough

By Karen Chapple and Jackelyn Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, March 25, 2022

In a study by the Urban Displacement Project and the Changing Cities Research Lab, we assembled a unique data set analyzing the nine-county Bay Area region over the past 20 years. This data set allows us to examine two simple questions: When we build new market-rate housing in a neighborhood, what happens to existing residents? Also, when we enact tenant protections to protect those residents, what happens. Our research found that new market-rate construction in any neighborhood results in more people moving in. But here’s the perhaps unsurprising catch — the new folks are disproportionately likely to be affluent.

Rent stabilization — policies that restrict the amount of rent increases — is effective at helping the lowest-income residents stay in their neighborhoods. Our analysis shows that increases in the share of units protected by rent stabilization in a neighborhood decreases the probability that the lowest income residents will move out. However, few housing units in the Bay Area are protected by rent stabilization (10 percent) or just cause for eviction ordinances (14 percent).

In essence, communities that fight exclusively for either new housing production or tenant protections are wasting their time. The two strategies complement each other and are helping to ease the affordable housing crisis. We need to preserve whatever affordable housing we have left. Rare local government interventions like San Francisco’s Small Sites program need to be expanded in order to acquire small multifamily-rental buildings and keep them affordable in perpetuity. We also need to embrace social housing, which is owned and managed by a government agency or nonprofit, like we never have before. A bill in the Legislature, AB2053, would create a California Housing Authority to produce and preserve housing that would be affordable across all income levels.”

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