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Right-to-Purchase Policy Empowers Tenants In San Francisco, Fights Gentrification

A new policy in San Francisco gives tenants the opportunity to purchase their listed buildings with the help of non-profit corporations, a cause for celebration among anti-gentrification advocates in the Bay Area.
July 2, 2020, 11am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Anne Roth

A San Francisco’s Mission District nonprofit, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), is leading an anti-gentrification effort, using a "right-to-purchase" policy to fight gentrification. Right-to-purchase policies allow tenants (with the help of MEDA) to purchase their own residential properties when they're put on the market, avoiding the displacement of residents. A policy similar to the right-to-purchase in the Bay Area is currently being considered in other California cities as well as at the statewide level. 

The right-to-purchase policy responds to some of the effects of the Ellis Act, which housing advocates blame for causing massive displacement in San Francisco. "Cash-rich coders can buy their share of the building up front. For tenants, the Ellis Act can mean forced displacement; for landlords, it eases the process of selling a residential building," writes Nick Bowlin. Thanks to San Francisco's Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), local nonprofits are given the opportunity to make an offer on a listed residential building before the building owner sells. 

Experts agree that a coronavirus fueled housing crisis is looming. Bowlin says that these and similar tenant-protecting policies are likely to gain traction across California as necessary measures to partially prevent displacement.

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Published on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 in High Country News
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