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San Francisco evictions in decline, less than two-thirds of state average

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Only half of eviction notices lead to actual ouster, according to Princeton database

         By Alexey Ulashchick

San Francisco landlords evict tenants at less than two-thirds the rate of the average California city.

That’s the conclusion from Princeton University’s recently launched Eviction Lab, which compiles data from 48 states and Washington DC to get a bird’s-eye view of what eviction in the U.S. looks like. In 2016, Princeton recorded roughly 2.3 million evictions coast to coast, around one per every 140 citizens.

Compared to that, California’s rate of one eviction per 933 residents—41,178 evictions total in 2016—looks almost rosy; however, it’s not wise to use those kinds of terms when talking about tens of thousands of people losing their homes.

And in San Francisco the news is even more potentially comforting for renters. A few takeaways from the data:

  • Eviction Lab reports 593 SF evictions the same year, one per every 1,417 people (Eviction Lab uses an estimated SF population of 841,000 for 2016, which is actually on the low side), a rate of about 63.5 percent of the state average.
  • The database also records some 1,176 eviction filings the same year, meaning that the success rate of attempted evictions in SF was just over 50 percent. In the rest of the state it was more than 87 percent.
  • Overall, California had 112.51 evictions per day in 2016. SF had just 1.62, or just less than 1.44 percent of the state eviction rate.
  • Although Eviction Lab records a median rent in SF more than $300 pricier than the state average, the city’s median income also outstripped California average by over $19,000.

Before uncorking the champagne, note that there are some discrepancies between Princeton’s and San Francisco’s data sets.

         By jejim

For example, the San Francisco Rent Board’s annual rent report recorded 1,881 attempted evictions in 2016 rather than Eviction Lab’s 1,176.

Note that the Rent Board’s “year” runs from March 2016 through February 2017, so the numbers will be different due to the timeframe—but that kind of gap means a pronounced difference in methodology.

Eviction Lab says of its data collection methods:

First, we requested a bulk report of cases directly from courts. These reports included all recorded information related to eviction-related cases. Second, we conducted automated record collection from online portals, via web scraping and text parsing protocols. Third, we partnered with companies that carry out manual collection of records, going directly into the courts and extracting the relevant case information by hand.

But with dozens of states and counties to cover, it seems they missed some. On the other hand, the Rent Board report simply records “the number of eviction notices filed with the Department.”

For the record, the most recent Rent Board report, released at the end of March, showed 1,657 eviction notices for the 2017-2018 period. That’s a decline of 12 percent year over year and the second annual decline in a row. However, that figure is still up since 2012, when the reported figure was 1,395.

As usual, the most commonly cited reasons for attempted evictions were “breach of lease” and “committing a nuisance.” Consistently, landlords report lease breaches and nuisance violations much more regularly when the rental market is in an upswing.