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Project Home: San Francisco Mayor's Office Of Housing Pushes For BMR Rents To Reflect Market Changes

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Affordable units in San Francisco have become more expensive than market rate units, now the Mayor's Office of Housing is pushing for certain building owners to adjust their rates.

"Regular market rate for my apartment is now below what I pay for what's supposed to be below market rate," Sabrina Reid said.

That is the crux of the problem for tenants like Reid, she's living in what is supposed to be set aside as an affordable unit in San Francisco. While market rate rents next door to her have dropped by thousands of dollars during the pandemic her rent has stayed the same, even when she lost her job.

"It's been, it's been hard," Reid said.

Reid pays $2,083 a month for her one-bedroom BMR at Bayside Village, on the building's website right now newer one-bedrooms are advertised at $2,395 a month with two free months, so this year Reid will pay $24,996 in rent while her new market rate neighbor will pay $1,000 less than her.

BMR rents are based on income levels set by HUD they don't respond to fluctuations in the real estate market. So rent for a one bedroom BMR in 2020 is capped at $3,075 a month, even though market rate one bedrooms dropped to $1,983 a month.

In some cases when tenants vacate affordable units they convert to market rate and disappear from the city's affordable housing stock.

A spokesperson for the MOHCD tells KPIX that the city regularly negotiates with building owners to ensure BMRs do not return to market rate when a tenant vacates, but some units in Reid's building would still be at risk of converting to market rate if any BMR tenant moves out.

"You've shined a light on something that, we've been trying to get attention to for so long," a Bayside tenant who is choosing to be anonymous for fear of retaliation said. "There's so much uncertainty that we don't know where else we could go," they added.

When KPIX first reported on this issue the city stated that the BMR tenants at the Avalon who were paying more than their market rate neighbors were "outliers", but then tenants living in the Towers at Rincon and Bayside Village came forward saying they were experiencing the same problem.

In response the mayor's office says it is pushing to lower rents at both Bayside and Avalon.

"MOHCD has been in contact with representatives of Bayside Village regarding the property's obligation to reduce affordable unit rents due to declines in market rate rents since November 2020," officials said. "It has been MOHCD's guidance to the building owner to lower BMR rents."

"It literally makes no sense to have the below market rate residents paying above market rate, I mean, I don't know how any landlord, how any government official, how anyone could see that and think this is okay," one Bayside tenant said.

Brookfield, the owner of Bayside Village sent a statement saying, ""Bayside Village is fully compliant with all BMR program agreements, and we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that is always the case."

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