Neighborhoods will Survive (a happy Real Estate Story)
We are all well aware of the economic pressures on the real estate market in our region and the resulting gentrification. Gentrification is a word that is bandied about a lot and, depending on your perspective, is either; the decline of western civilization, or the seed of urban revitalization. Either way, the wave of new wealth that is cascading over the region is bigger than policy and will undoubtedly yield long lasting, physical and social remnants.
While we can comment upon and shape these changes, we need to be cognizant of their causes and effects and try to work for the best outcomes for all. Too often, we throw our hands up in despair and hopelessness. Here is a real estate story with a happy ending that suggests that there is and will always be a place for locals in our growing and changing City.
A woman, lets call her Becky, lived in a flat in Noe Valley. When a young couple bought the two unit building, they had no choice but to evict Becky, invoking the Ellis Act. Becky you see was young and her upstairs neighbor was an older woman who was a “protected tenant” under the law. This made Becky the only target for the new owners who were themselves young and, having just been tenants themselves, sympathetic to Becky’s plight but unable to occupy their new home without removing her. Becky moved, not too far from where the flat was.
A year or so later, she ran into her former flat mate, the older woman from upstairs. The woman told Becky that she was ready to retire and was going to move to Florida. She went on to explain that the new owners of the building felt terribly guilty about having had to evict Becky and would like nothing better than to have her move back in, this time upstairs. Becky moved back in with her new boyfriend, Paul, and life proceeded.
Two more years passed and the young couple, now with a child, a growing three person household, came to Becky and Paul with more bad news. They needed more space and had purchased a single family house across the street. They would have to sell the apartment building, and did not want to see Becky and Paul homeless again. With this notice Becky and Paul set about polling their friends to see if anyone wanted to go in with them and buy the building as a TIC (Tenancy in Common). They found partners and were able to acquire the building in 2008, as interest rates were falling and the deal became affordable. They moved in and set about the necessary inspection and repair process that would allow them to create condominiums and each become owners of their own homes.
Three years later, that process was complete, and once again, interest rates had dropped allowing them to refinance and providing them the security of a long term financial instrument and the pleasures of home ownership. Becky and Paul live there today with their cats. They walk the neighborhood where they have now lived for over fifteen years. They are locals, Paul is a mechanic and Becky works in fashion. They work in and frequent local businesses, they know their neighbors and they participate in community events. The moral of the story, real estate transactions can have happy endings, not all evictions lead to disenfranchisement and the social fabric of our neighborhoods will survive.