San Francisco rule would encourage building student housing

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To protect rent-controlled units, San Francisco may ban converting apartments for student-only uses and create incentives for developers of student dwellings.

Derrick Spradlin, a student at the Academy of Art University, moves out of a building on Sutter Street in San Francisco as summer break begins. Nine apartment buildings and former hotels in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood have been converted into dorms for the school's students. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / May 20, 2012)

By Lee Romney, Los Angeles TimesJuly 9, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Lower Nob Hill, a once stately neighborhood whose shifting fortunes have proved a draw over the years for prostitutes and petty crooks, is buzzing with new activity.

The Academy of Art University has snatched up nine apartment buildings and former hotels in the enclave, converting them into dorms for students who pack the neighborhood’s cafes and linger on the sidewalks to smoke and skateboard.

Private landlords have gotten in on the action, renting to students who, city officials say, pay as much as 20% more for their lodgings than permanent residents do.

But with the average rent for a San Francisco studio apartment hovering around $2,000, Lower Nob Hill and the institution that transformed it are Exhibit A in a pointed policy debate over student housing.

In an effort to safeguard rent-controlled units, a proposed ordinance would ban the conversion of existing apartments for student-only uses. Passed overwhelmingly by the Planning Commission last month, the measure also would create incentives for developers of designated student dwellings. Continue reading

Supreme Court disappoints landlords, rejects rent-control challenge

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New York City's rent-control ordinance limits the rents of more than a million apartments. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

By David G. SavageApril 23, 2012, 8:50 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to New York City’s famed rent-control ordinance, a post-World War II housing measure that limits the rents of more than a million apartments.

The court’s action is a setback for property-rights activists, who had hoped a more conservative court would protect landlords and a free market in rentals. For decades, critics have said rent-control laws deny property owners the right to fully profit from their investment.

The justices, four of whom grew up in New York City, turned away an appeal from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a five-story brownstone building on West 76th Street in Manhattan. The couple says they have no choice but to rent three apartments on the upper floors for less than half of their market value.

They also say that one of their tenants can pay a $1,500-a-month mortgage on a Long Island house because he pays only $951 a month to rent a unit in Harmon’s building. Continue reading