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Sale of 2,000 rent-controlled SF homes delayed due to email snafu

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Spam filter pushes huge listings back nearly a month

Among the neighborhoods where Veritas owns properties: the Tenderloin, the Mission, and Chinatown.

City Hall and various San Francisco housing interests are hot to pressure Veritas Investments, San Francisco’s largest landlord, to put off listing 76 rent-controlled buildings for sale until the city can broker sales strictly to housing nonprofits.

But although Veritas tells Curbed SF they’re perfectly happy to sell the more than 2,000 units of housing stock to any city-approved bodies, the company stopped short of pledging not to pursue other potential offers.

Now a simple email error will set the clock back on those dealings for weeks. By law in San Francisco, Veritas was required to notify potential nonprofit buyers about the pending sales offers first and then give them 30 days to respond to work out an offer.

However, the investment outfit failed to respond to one group, the San Francisco Community Land Trust, who tried to pursue the listings.

As it turns out, the relevant email landed in a spam folder. It wasn’t unearthed again until SF weekly brought it up with the company after the trust tipped the paper off about the seeming stonewalling.

Now, even though the original 25-day period has passed, Veritas says it will extend a similar window of time to the trust as all competing nonprofit entities got the first time around.

That’s less than half the time that Supervisor Dean Preston had hoped.

Preston asked for a 60-day freeze on the sales to help wrangle purchasing plans for numerous affordable housing interests eager to seize on such a large stock of preserved homes. The lawmaker would like to keep the affordable homes from slipping into the hands of other large landlords.

The Community Opportunity To Purchase Act (COPA) reserves the “right of first offer” for groups like the land trust on buildings with three or more units. Right now six SF-based housing groups qualify for the early notifications.

Mayor London Breed signed COPA into law in May 2019.

“One obstacle to the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing is rapid turnover in the city’s real estate market,” the original legislation reads, adding that in the past nonprofits often want to make a move on key properties but run out of time before they sell elsewhere.

Which, ironically, is the predicament that all six would-be buyers find themselves potentially in now anyway despite the law, which did not anticipate the extra challenges of such a huge number of homes coming up all at once.