Many of the members of the San Francisco Apartment Association are unaware of all of the civic and charitable activities the association is involved in outside of the rental housing industry. Civic engagement is the cornerstone of much of our work, and SFAA is continuously involved with city and community groups, as well as other local nonprofit agencies. SFAA works diligently to lend a helping hand to many city agencies and task forces, and is a strong leader in the city.
SFAA Executive Director Janan New sits on several advisory boards and Boards of Directors of local nonprofits. She has served on the board of the Neighborhood Parks Council, the Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Center and the Pacific Primary School. She also volunteers her time on the City Car Share task force. In addition, all staff members at SFAA are asked to get involved in some sort of volunteer work. The staff has been involved in everything from the Girl Scouts to supporting the Irish Cultural Center.
SFAA also participates in a number of city task forces, volunteering to help the city in a number of different spheres and projects. SFAA staff sit on the Renewable Energy Task Force, the Asthma Task Force and the Committee Action Plan for Seismic Safety. SFAA also participated in conferences on mental health and hoarding and cluttering, and is working with Supervisor Scott Wiener’s office on a campaign about the benefits of renter’s insurance after a spate of recent fires in Wiener’s supervisorial district. The San Francisco Apartment Association is also putting together a free website on smoke-free housing in accordance with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and in support of those offering healthy housing options citywide.
SFAA is itself a not-for-profit business, and we believe that it is important to support other local nonprofits as well. We have given financial support to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, Plan C, the Housing Action Coalition and many other worthy organizations. We also participate in and are members of the Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.
SFAA also accepts some funding from city departments in exchange for work within the community. The acceptance of grant money allows us to keep membership dues as low as possible while still participating in the formation of policy that affects the rental housing industry.
SFAA works under DBI’s Code Enforcement Outreach Program in collaboration with local tenant groups, including the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Causa Justa: Just Cause, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Chinatown Community Development Center. The outreach program is funded by the Department of Building Inspection and is designed to improve communication and cooperation between tenants and rental property owners, and improve living conditions for renters. Often times, a strained relationship between a resident and rental property provider results in direct calls to DBI, instead of informing a manager or owners first to mitigate the issue. SFAA works with the city and other local groups to bring rental housing into code compliance through better communication.
Finally, SFAA board leadership is called upon to discuss pending or soon to be proposed legislation that affects quality of life issues for all San Franciscans, not just those relating to landlord-tenant issues. In the last election cycle, the SFAA board met with many of the sponsors of the propositions so that we could evaluate the impact of a proposition and decide its relevance, if any, to our membership. We were asked to take positions on issues like sit/lie, city-employee pension reform and Saturday voting, to name a few.
San Francisco Housing Foundation
Through the leadership of State Senator Leland Yee, SFAA started a community-based nonprofit in 1999. At the time, Supervisor Yee believed that all city funding was going toward the tenant organizations, so he wanted to balance this with a onetime grant to start a housing foundation for low-income property owners. He started the SF Housing Foundation, and through the SFHF, SFAA offers free monolingual classes so owners can learn the laws and intricacies of the rental ordinance in their native languages.
The SF Housing Foundation also offers legal assistance for low-income housing providers, working with local attorneys to provide low-income owners with a few hours of pro bono legal work. If an owner’s case is more time-intensive, the SFHF will work with an attorney to subsidize their hourly billing rates.
One of the most rewarding programs the San Francisco Housing Foundation created was a collaborative program with the Homeless Prenatal Program. The Homeless Prenatal Program approached us because many of their clients were unable to come up with the security deposits needed to secure housing. With the pro bono help from one of our associate attorneys, Clifford Fried, we were able to create a line of credit to be used in lieu of a security deposit to allow owners to offer housing to the neediest tenants. The line of credit went to the owner in place of the cash security deposit and was backed by the foundation. The owner could draw on the “security deposit letter of credit” only if needed. During the two years that this program was active, the letters of credit were drawn on only twice, both times for fairly nominal amounts.
The SF Housing Foundation has a fundraiser once a year in August. The foundation is funded through the leadership and generosity of the members of the Professional Property Management Association, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and the Coalition for Better Housing. The fundraising efforts have added to the seed money Senator Yee entrusted to us and allow us to keep the programs active. We are proud to be celebrating our 12-year anniversary.
The San Francisco Apartment Association is committed to its work with local community groups, other nonprofits, and service to the city through participation on a number of agencies and task forces. Building collaborative relationships with city leadership and other organizations is one of the most important functions of the board and SFAA leadership. Ideological differences can sometimes alienate people and/or groups, but it is always important to keep the proverbial doors of communication open to dialogue with everyone. It is our passion and a privilege to provide useful services to our members and to our city.
by Robert Link