SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a housing inventory legislation that will require landlords to provide information annually about approximately 233, 518 rental units, on Tuesday, December 1.

The legislation was written by Supervisor Sandra Fewer. Backers of that legislation say it will help tenants by providing crucial information to protect tenants and inform policy decisions to help address housing affordability.

The San Francisco Examiner said that “many” community members consider the legislation burdensome and an invasion of privacy.

The San Francisco Tenants Union, argues that amid the city’s housing crisis, there is no reliable or accurate data about rents. The union claimed that 30,000 units sit vacant and said that rents continue to rise. There is a perceived lack of data available about renting.

On the SFTU website, an endorsement of the legislation read: “A public Housing Inventory would help ensure that our rental housing is being used and maintained in compliance with the Rent Ordinance and to help inform policy decisions, such as illuminating ways to make better and more equitable use of our land and housing stock.”

The Rent Board will collect information including the mailing address of the unit, the name and business contact information of the landlord, the business registration number for the unit, the approximate square footage and number of rooms in the unit, whether the unit is vacant or occupied, the date the occupancy commenced, and the rent range.

To fund the housing inventory, the already existing Rent Board fee of $45 will be raised to $55. Staffing costs for the first year range from $1.4 million to $3.3 million, according to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors cost estimates. After the first year, estimated ongoing annual system maintenance and operations staffing costs are reduced to a range between $1.2 million and $2.8 million.

Partially due to circumstances during the COVID pandemic, including people unable to pay rent and others choosing to leave the city completely, Supervisor Sandra Fewer said on her Board of Supervisors page that she wanted to better track landlord-tenant relationships and vacancies.

“We have seen major changes in our rental housing market with some people unable to pay rent due to COVID, and many others choosing to leave the City to work remotely. We know that this has created more vacancies, but we don’t know where or how many. We know what asking rents look like on leasing websites, but we don’t know what actual rents look like for existing tenants.”

She also cited the 1979 rent ordinance aimed at safeguarding tenants from “excessive rent increases.” Fewer hopes to pass the legislation before leaving office in January.

The San Francisco Examiner interviewed landlords including, Roxanne Albertoli who said, “To force rental property owners to register their property is akin to treating us as sex offenders or criminals.” She also asked, “What right do you have to single out rental property owners as needing special surveillance?”

One landlord, Jeffrey Wu, expressed opposition to the legislation, referencing government control and interference in the activities of individual business. “I’m a conservative who is against the liberal government. Concerning this legislation, I am against government control of private business.”

Another landlord, who owns an apartment at 2930 Sacramento Street, Waibong Tang, said he perceived the BOS policies as unfair towards landlords.

“Like legislation in the past, this new legislation once again adds cost to landlords,” he said. Tang followed up with questions about the motives of the supervisors. “Where is the fairness and what else is new? How come SF supervisors are always looking after tenants’ benefit and completely ignoring mom and pop property owners’ needs? Is it because there are more tenant votes to be counted than property owners’? Can the SF supervisors ever remotely consider the issue of fairness?”

Waibong Tang’s apartment in the Pacific Heights neighborhood

Noni Richen, President of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco stated the following: “This scheme will add millions of dollars of expenses in added employees and office space for the Rent Board and produces nothing of value. It requires reporting of a lot of private information about buildings, owners, and renters.”

San Francisco Supervisors Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, and Aaron Preskin endorse the legislation. The BOS will vote on the issue on Tuesday.