Since March 2020, government officials across the country have passed measures to slow down evictions and offer rent relief to struggling Americans. But as the nation slowly emerges from the pandemic, lawmakers are quietly winding down rental assistance programs and eviction moratoriums.
The result? Eviction notices in San Francisco are rising again, albeit at a slower pace than before 2020.
The Standard compiled a series of data visualizations to help explain the complicated landscape of evictions, both before and after the pandemic. Pulling the latest data from SF Rent Board reports, these visualizations help track how eviction rates have changed, where they are increasing or decreasing, and which kinds of eviction notices have grown in popularity over the past few years.
The Rise and Fall of Eviction
Eviction rates in San Francisco are lower than ever, thanks largely to pandemic relief efforts. The SF Rent Board releases its annual report in April, which compiles evictions from the prior March through February of the publication year. Its most recent report noted 1,048 eviction notices filed with the department for 2021-2022. The figure represents a 43% increase from the prior period, though still significantly below the average for the past twenty-some years.
Evictions clearly declined during the pandemic, though the number of notices was already on a steady decline after peaking in 2015-2016. This trend can be traced back to pre- and post-pandemic efforts: in November 2015, San Francisco passed legislation to prevent landlords from serving “low-fault” eviction notices that disproportionately affect low-income renters. More recently, lawsuits have plummeted to half the number seen before the pandemic.
This signals the tentative success of longer-term and COVID-related measures designed to keep renters in their homes and eviction lawsuits out of the courts.
Evictions by Neighborhood
Eviction notices appear at disproportionately high rates in certain neighborhoods in San Francisco. The city’s Rent Board currently provides information on 2022 evictions through May. Check out the map below for a breakdown of this year’s evictions by neighborhood.
Though the data varies yearly, the Tenderloin, the Mission and SoMa consistently represent the largest share of eviction notices before and after the pandemic.
The Tenderloin dropped from 94 total notices in 2019 to 73 notices filed in 2021, while SoMa grew from 28 notices in 2019 to 61 in 2021.
Neighborhoods with a low average incidence of evictions can experience a spike in notices when landlords remove or demolish multi-family units from the rental market. Though Lakeshore reported some of the highest numbers of evictions between 2018 and 2019, their notices dropped off significantly during the pandemic.
Changes in Type of Eviction
Over time, the “type” or just cause for eviction notices has also changed, with most notice categories experiencing a modest increase in filings. Roommate evictions, for example, increased 250% from 6 to 21 for the year ending February 2022.
Certain types of eviction notices are rising more than others. Eviction notices filed as “Nuisances” increased by 25% between 2021 and 2022 – a statistic that worries some housing justice experts, who warn of the effects of “low-fault” evictions. Evictions filed under “capital improvement” have also decreased significantly, as demolition rates have skyrocketed, up 93% from the previous Rent Board report.
Outlook for San Francisco Evictions
Recent reports about post-pandemic eviction rates cast a dire picture of housing inequality. A total of 534,000 California renters applied for rental assistance between 2021 and 2022, representing less than half of the state’s struggling tenants. Citywide relief policies designed to alleviate housing-related stress have left behind those who failed to apply for government relief in time. In the face of expiring relief programs and rejected aid, some SF renters have participated in protests and staged debt strikes against the city’s largest landlords.
Nevertheless, pre- and post-pandemic measures to reduce San Francisco’s evictions give reason for cautious optimism—the Rent Board’s half-year report for 2022 points to lower average eviction notices than before the pandemic, and new legislation has sought to reduce Ellis Act removals and provide better relocation assistance to displaced tenants.
Liz Lindqwister can be reached at [email protected]