All about the right to counsel for tenants in San Francisco

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04/28/2024, Legislation, Housing - Evictions

Update 2024: Latest RTC data shows program is thriving

 

A 2024 report from the City and County of San Francisco found that 92% of tenants assisted by the RTC avoided homelessness, and that 63% of those receiving full representation were able to stay in their homes, compared to 45% of those receiving limited scope representation.

 

The study also found that only 72% of the cases involved nonpayment of rent, meaning that more of a quarter of cases involved other issues (nuisance, breach of lease, etc.). Additionally, while the RTC program has no income limits, 83% of those receiving assistance were extremely low income and another 12% were low income, meaning only 5% were above the low-income level.

 

The report was covered by KQED and the San Francisco Examiner.

 

Update: Right to counsel results continue to shine

 

The latest data from San Francisco's right to counsel program, which covers the period from March 2020 - December 2021, shows that the program continues to deliver impressive results:

 

  • 59% of fully represented tenants are able to remain in their homes;
  • Of the 30% who did not remain in their unit, 70% received a favorable settlement, such as a move-out with sufficient time and money (i.e., a combination of rent waiver and cash payment to move out).

Update: CIty increases investment in right to counsel

 

After initially facing a budget cut due to COVID-19, the City of San Francisco increased its investment by nearly $7 million to $16 million total.

 

Update: Supervisor Preston holds hearing on RTC law, and powerful success of program is revealed.

 

On February 24, 2020, there was a hearing on San Francisco’s eviction right to counsel program.  It was convened by Dean Preston, who was one of the principal architects of Prop F and who is now a City Supervisor.  At the hearing, some powerful statistics on the success of the program were heard, such as:

 

  • A 10% decrease in the filing rate from 2018 to 2019;
  • Of the two-thirds of tenants receiving full-scope representation at this point, 67% are able to stay in their homes (including 80% for African-American tenants);
  • Despite the lack of an income limit, 85% of those receiving counsel are extremely low or low income, 9% are moderate income, and 6% are just above moderate income. 

 

The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Business Times, and Next City have more, and you can read Supervisor Preston's press release.

 

Update: Christian Science Monitor looks at rollout of program

 

The Christian Science Monitor took an in-depth look at how rollout of Prop F is going in San Francisco, and features some powerful stories from tenants.

 

Update: City appropriates funding for Prop F

 

The San Francisco Examiner and SF Weekly report that San Francisco Mayor London Breed has set aside $1.9 million this fiscal year and $3.9 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year in order to implement Prop F.

 

Update: Prop F is now law!

 

On June 5, 2018, voters in San Francisco approved Prop F by a vote of 56% to 44%!  The San Francisco ChronicleSF Weekly, Curbed San Francisco, Next City, San Francisco Attorney Magazine, and the Stranger (Seattle) have more, and you can also check out the press release from the SF Right to Counsel Committee.  San Francisco thus joins New York City in guaranteeing counsel for tenants in evictions, with the difference being that the San Francisco law has no income limit.

 

Background

 

A coalition of tenant groups and advocates called the SF Right to Counsel Committee filed a ballot initiative (known as "Prop F") to guarantee a right to counsel for all tenants (not just low-income tenants) facing eviction.  The proposal referred to the recent establishment of an eviction right to counsel in New York City.   48hills has more, and proponents set up a website for the ballot initiative.  Also, an ordinance co-sponsored by the President of the Board of Supervisors was introduced that would guarantee counsel in housing cases.

 

The introduction of the ballot initiative and ordinance were covered by the San Francisco Chronicle, CBS, SF Weekly, Curbed San Francisco,the Bay City Beacon, KALW (audio), and the San Francisco Public Press.


Both of these initiatives come in the wake of the City's 2012 ordinance declaring its intention to become the nation's first "right to civil counsel city", as well as a pilot project that expanded representation in certain types of housing cases via increased pro bono participation (read the report of the pilot project's final results).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes

 

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The NCCRC authored and filed a ballot statement in support of the initiative.