Land Trust Acquires Mission District Building with Help of City Funds

The San Francisco Community Land Trust closed on a 6-unit Mission District building this month with the help of city funding, preserving it as affordable housing for residents who had feared eviction by real estate investors, city and trust officials said today.

The trust won a court-ordered auction for the property at 2840 Folsom Street, known as the “Pigeon Palace,” in June and was able to close escrow earlier this month with the help of around $2.5 million in city funding from the city’s Small Sites Program, according to Tracy Parent, the trust’s organizational director.

It will rent the property back to residents and begin work on renovations financed by $700,000 of the city’s funds. Over the next three to five years the plan is to turn the property over to a tenant-run affordable housing co-op, although the trust will retain the deed, Parent said.

“Real estate speculation and rising rents have contributed to the displacement of San Franciscans, and our program to purchase already occupied units can preserve their affordability over the long-term,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement today about the purchase. “We are creating certainty for our longtime San Francisco families and rent-controlled residents by ensuring they have a safe, affordable place to live.”

Residents brought in the trust in an effort to save their homes after the elderly owner’s conservator ordered the auction of the property. Parent said competition for the building was fierce, with five other bidders at the auction.

“This building would have been a prime candidate for the Ellis Act eviction for TIC conversion business model that we’re seeing around San Francisco,” Parent said.

The victory is a small one, however, considering that the trust, which has acquired eight properties so far, gets around 10 phone calls a month from tenants in other buildings seeking help, according to Parent.

She noted that the Small Sites Program, a fund for the purchase and rehabilitation of privately-owned properties for the preservation of affordable housing, is currently out of money. The trust, meanwhile, has identified more than 30 properties for potential acquisition but has been outbid by private developers on some properties due to a lack of funds.

“There’s so much demand for this particular strategy that we basically tapped it out in the first month of this fiscal year,” Parent said of the fund.

According to the mayor’s office the Small Sites Program has committed to aiding in the acquisition of 60 units at a cost of more than $20 million by the end of this year.

Parent said the trust is backing a $310 million housing bond on the November ballot that would provide new funds for further acquisition, and also working with the mayor’s Office of Housing to identify other sources of funding in the meantime.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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