I believe the law should protect the rights of residential tenants and that communities should have a legal responsibility to foster development of affordable housing. I do not, however, support laws that produce the result described in The Small-Time Landlord Versus Tenant Protection in the April 30 New York Times. It relates the story of Wayne Koniuk, who owns a three-apartment building in San Francisco (I’d call it a triple decker but don’t know its layout) bought by his father in 1970 and then given to him in 2001 “so Wayne could run his business on the ground floor and Wayne’s adult children would always have a place to live..” In 2007 Wayne gave a half-interest in the building to his oldest son, who evicted the tenant living in one of its apartments and moved in. Now Wayne wants to, but cannot, move his youngest son into the other apartment. San Francisco law allows the owner to evict a tenant and move into the vacated unit only once. As the article describes the law Wayne’s other son, even if he became a 50% owner, could not evict the existing tenant, who has lived in the building for 30 years and pays monthly rent of $525.82. He has offered the tenant $45,000 to move out; the tenant countered with $70,000, which Koniuk says he cannot afford.
One anecdote with unfortunate facts does not make the case. It is bad policy, though, to prevent the owner of a small residential building from evicting tenants to move in family members. It puts the burden of affordable housing creation on the owner just because he is an owner, without regard to context.