Open Collections

UBC Graduate Research

Successful Preservation and Development of Single Room Occupancy Housing: Lessons for Vancouver Pearson, Holly R. Feb 5, 2008

Item Metadata


310-SCARP_2004_Grad_Project_Holly_Pearson.doc [ 1.01MB ]
JSON: 310-1.0102499.json
JSON-LD: 310-1.0102499-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 310-1.0102499-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 310-1.0102499-rdf.json
Turtle: 310-1.0102499-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 310-1.0102499-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 310-1.0102499-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Successful Preservation and Development of Single Room Occupancy Housing Lessons for Vancouver Case studies of municipal SRO policies in four North American cities Holly R. Pearson  University of British Columbia April 2004 School of Community and Regional Planning SUCCESSFUL PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY HOUSING: LESSONS FOR VANCOUVER Case studies of SRO policies in four North American cities by HOLLY R. PEARSON B.S., The Evergreen State College, 1996 A PROJECT SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS (PLANNING) in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES School of Community and Regional Planning We accept this project as conforming to the required standard ...................................................... ..................................................... ..................................................... THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 2004 © Holly R. Pearson, 2004 Dedicated to the memory of my mother Linda 1946 – 2003 whose love, encouragement and wisdom have made my successes possible. ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to Nathan Edelson and Celine Mauboules of the City of Vancouver Central Area Planning office for the opportunity to carry out this research.  Further thanks to Celine for your compassion, sincerity and humanness. Thanks to Dr. Penny Gurstein of the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning for sharing your excellent insights and abundant knowledge. Thanks to the wonderful women of SCARP’s 2001 entering class for the countless breakfasts at Slickity Jim’s, during which so much sharing of moral support and ‘personal advising’ on our master’s theses and projects took place. Thanks to Dad for your advice on good computing practice. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, thank you so much to Tom for providing another ‘planner’s perspective’ and for being a sounding board from which I could process my ideas.  Your listening, insight, and interpretations have been immeasurably helpful in advancing my understanding of these issues. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS List of figures and tables v Executive Summary 1 Preface.  Purpose, objectives, and methods for this study 2 Chapter 1.  Single room occupancy housing in North American cities 3 Identifying single room occupancy housing: definition and history 3 The disappearance of SRO housing: Progressive reform, urban renewal and downtown redevelopment 5 The movement to protect SRO housing stock 7 SROs today: their residents, their uses, and their significance 8 The case for preserving SRO housing 10 Chapter 2.  Context for low-income housing and SRO preservation in Vancouver 11 SROs and social, affordable, & low-income housing 11 The need for affordable housing in Vancouver 12 Impact of federal and provincial policies on Vancouver’s affordable housing 14 The City of Vancouver’s policies and programs for social and affordable housing 15 Status of the SRO housing stock in Vancouver 17 The Single Room Accommodation By-Law 18 Chapter 3.  City profiles: Case studies of municipal SRO policies 21 San Francisco 22 San Diego 30 New York City 37 Toronto 43 Summary and conclusion 52 Chapter 4.  Analysis and discussion 58 Addressing SRO housing through contemporary planning practice 58 Factors that contribute to successful implementation of SRO policies 60 Assessment of Vancouver’s SRA By-law in light of insights gained from case study cities 65 Conclusions 68 Chapter 5.  Policy implications for the City of Vancouver 69 References cited 74 FIGURES AND TABLES Page 1. Map of Vancouver’s downtown core 17 2. List of themes and issues related to SRO preservation, conditions, tenants and management 21 3. City profiles summary: San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Toronto 54 v EXECUTIVE SUMMARY In October 2003 the municipal government of Vancouver, British Columbia enacted a by-law to regulate demolitions and conversions to other uses of single room occupancy (SRO) hotels in the city’s downtown core.  SRO housing (or simply “SROs”) refers to small residential units, usually consisting of one room, that lack private kitchen and bath facilities and/or share them with other units.  SROs usually exist in the form of residential hotels or rooming/lodging houses built during the early 20th century; today they provide long-term or permanent housing for very low-income tenants and represent the cheapest accommodation available on the private rental market.  Most of the SRO housing stock in North American cities was destroyed during the post-World War II urban renewal movement, and today preservation of remaining SROs has become an important policy objective for many large North American cities.  Some city governments have also explored ways to stimulate the development of new SROs, or modern SRO variations, to house low-income renters. This report gives a brief history of SRO housing and its role and importance as “shelter of last resort” for many of society’s most vulnerable citizens.  It then discusses the urgent need for low-income housing in Vancouver, where rapid population growth and high housing demand has created a very expensive rental market.  Vancouver’s current policies and initiatives related to low-income housing are briefly described, as is the City’s new Single Room Accommodation By-law.  The bulk of the report is dedicated to descriptive case studies and analysis of municipal policies and initiatives related to the preservation and new development of SRO housing in San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, and Toronto.  The case studies provide insights into achievements, challenges, opportunities, lessons learned, and the overall effectiveness of the four cities’ SRO policies that can be applied to improving and enhancing future implementation efforts for the City of Vancouver’s SRA By-law.  Specific policy implications for the City of Vancouver are presented. 1 PREFACE: PURPOSE, OBJECTIVES AND METHODS FOR THIS STUDY This study focuses on efforts by municipal governments in the United States and Canada to protect the dwindling supply of SRO housing and to facilitate the development of new models of SROs or similar forms of basic housing for very low-income individuals.  It is based on case studies of four cities: San Francisco and San Diego, California; New York City, New York; and Toronto, Ontario.  Research was conducted on the implementation of policies for preservation and new development of SRO housing in these cities at the request of the Central Area Planning office of the City of Vancouver, British Columbia. It is hoped that the information collected and presented in this report will inform and improve future implementation efforts for Vancouver’s recently enacted Single Room Accommodation by-law, which aims to regulate the demolition and the conversion to other uses of single room occupancy housing in the downtown core. Research questions The questions that have guided this study are: • What is the current status of implementation and enforcement of SRO policies in each of the selected municipalities?  (San Francisco, New York City, Toronto, San Diego) • What incentives to maintain existing low-income housing are offered to building owners and operators by each of these municipalities? • What approaches or models have been/are being used in each of these municipalities to provide replacement SRO housing units? Methodology The information presented in this report was gathered through the following methods:  • Reading of academic literature and media articles related to single room occupancy housing • Review and analysis of relevant official documents by planning and/or housing departments for the selected municipalities, including sections of the Municipal Codes related to SRO regulations and policies; housing or neighborhood plans; policy studies; planning reports; etc. • Telephone interviews with municipal staff members and professionals working in the affordable housing field (for-profit developers of low-income housing and non-profit housing advocates) in the selected cities.  2 1.  SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY HOUSING IN NORTH AMERICAN CITIES The movement to preserve single room occupancy housing in North American city centers has proven over the past two and a half decades to be, like other efforts in support of low-income housing, as politically controversial and unpalatable to some as it is morally imperative and urgent to others.  Single room occupancy dwellings, or SROs as they are commonly called, are a specific and very basic form of housing that usually provides accommodation to tenants at the lowest end of the private rental market in terms of income.  The type of living unit that is known today as an SRO is typically a room in a turn-of- the-century hotel, rooming house, or lodging house.  The years following the second World War saw the widespread, systematic destruction of SRO buildings in the name of urban renewal; more recently, an alarmingly large number of SROs have been lost as long-term housing for low-income tenants through conversions to other uses such as upscale tourist hotels and condominiums. From the late 1960s through the present a progression of crises has erupted in many cities concerning the fate of SROs, exacerbated by a sharp division in attitudes and public policies surrounding a central question: are SROs, as permanent housing for low-income individuals or households, an essential housing resource or a dispensable public nuisance? (Groth 1994).  This report contends that SRO housing is a valuable public resource that plays a vital role in sheltering some of society’s most vulnerable citizens, helping to prevent homelessness, and creating stable and functional low-income residential neighborhoods in inner cities. Identifying single room occupancy housing: definition and history There is no official, universally accepted definition of a single room occupancy living unit or building (the term ‘SRO’ can be used to refer to either a hotel/rooming house building or an individual room within such a building).  Local definitions vary in their specific points but tend to focus on common major characteristics.  Generally speaking, an SRO unit is a single room of approximately 70-225 square feet that lacks a complete bathroom and kitchen.  Many SROs are equipped with minimal sanitary and/or culinary facilities, such as a sink and a hot plate; in most cases a common bathroom is shared between several SRO living units.  In some cases SROs may consist of two adjoining rooms and be larger than 225 3 square feet.  Within the variety of living unit types that are encompassed by the term ‘SRO’, the defining features are the relatively small size and the absence of a private kitchen and bathroom. Construction of residential hotels, rooming and lodging houses (establishments where rooms or individual beds are rented out), and boarding houses (establishments where meals are provided to tenants in addition to rooms being rented), as well as the modification of existing large single family houses to create many small rooming or boarding units, soared in many mid-sized to large American and Canadian cities between about 1880 and 1930.  These housing types were originally created as short-term accommodations for the vast number of transient workers who powered the industrial age – laborers in the timber industry and other resource sectors, construction of railroads and urban infrastructure, manufacturing, etc.  Most of these buildings were located in the heart of or in very close proximity to downtown districts.  They ranged in size from modest houses containing four or five converted rooming units to large hotels containing as many as 200 or more rooms.  During the prime years of residential hotel and rooming house culture, these types of accommodation housed a wide range of social classes and occupations.  Although some upscale and mid-priced hotels provided long-term housing for members of the middle and upper classes, the vast majority of tenants in residential hotels and rooming houses were low- to moderate-income workers. Building owners and managers have historically played a very important role in the success of residential hotel enterprises.  During the peak years of residential hotel culture from about 1890-1930 the job of hotel manager was viewed as a skilled and respectable occupation and the competency of the manager was seen as critical to the success of a hotel.  Managers and front desk staff of hotels have historically served several different functions, including giving tenants a sense of belonging, monitoring who comes and goes from the building so as to maintain security and order, managing difficult tenants and mediating conflicts, assisting elderly residents with shopping or other daily tasks, providing “specific stabilizing services” to transient workers such as holding their earnings and “acting as banker and bursar” (Groth 1994, 160), and maintaining consistently high occupancy in order to ensure the hotel’s financial viability.  In addition, the collective actions of hotel owners, such as improving their properties and 4 advocating policies that favored increased specialization, rationality, and separation of uses in urban space, have proven to be very influential in affecting significant change in entire urban districts (ibid). During the 1950s and 60s the primary use of most older residential hotels and rooming houses began to change due to a sharp decline in the demand for temporary housing for transient workers. Increasingly these buildings provided longer-term shelter for the poor, including working individuals earning low wages, elderly tenants living on fixed incomes, and persons receiving social assistance benefits.  The physical aging and deterioration of buildings also contributed to the tendency for residential hotels to be given over to long-term housing for low-income tenants housing.  Many formerly first-class hotels that were located in neighborhoods undergoing decline and disinvestment were gradually added to the supply of inexpensive shelter for the poor. The disappearance of SRO housing: Progressive reform, urban renewal and downtown redevelopment As Butzen (1996, 77) notes, during the same timeframe that SRO use shifted from temporary shelter for transient workers into longer term housing for the stable working poor, there was “a shift in the attitude of public officials and the business community from supporting SRO housing to becoming proponents of its destruction.”  This illustrates a critical turning point in the history of SROs and the debate about their future: at the same time that demand for SROs as inexpensive shelter expanded to a broader group of renters in an increasingly costly housing market, the urban renewal movement in the post-World War II years and beyond, spawned by both political institutions and the development industry, threatened to eliminate this form of housing from urban centers across the continent. The influence of Progressive reformers is one of the greatest factors behind the gradual emergence of political and cultural opposition to SRO housing.  Beginning in about 1890 leading thinkers of the Progressive Era espoused a view of residential hotels as “moral, sanitary, and economic slums” (California Commission on Immigration and Housing 1916, quoted in Groth 1994, 205) and “cauldrons of social and cultural evil” (Groth 1994, 201) that threatened social order as well as notions of urban citizenship and civic responsibility.  Progressive attitudes toward residential hotels were rooted in upper and middle class complaints about urban density, mixture, and diversity.  From the 1890s to the 1920s, 5 social workers, public health officials, housing experts, and urban policymakers actively and fervently promoted suburban life – characterized by low density, separation of uses, and stratification of social classes – as the universal ideal of a “normal standard of living” that represented the best way to live for everyone.  By the 1940s the objections and criticisms to residential hotel living had become institutionalized and codified into building and health codes, zoning by-laws, and housing development and financing policies.  Specifically and perhaps most significantly, SROs were excluded from recognition as a legitimate residential form by building codes that required private toilets and baths for each dwelling unit. These policies and attitudes laid the groundwork for the massive urban renewal schemes of the 1950s and 60s.  In the post-World War II years city planners and public officials across the U.S. and Canada embarked upon an ambitious mission to clear slums, eliminate substandard housing, and eradicate all urban blight.  Areas that were targeted for clearance were defined by certain characteristics: compact, mixture of uses, numerous substandard dwellings, deficiency of open spaces, and ugly or depressing vistas (San Francisco City Planning Commission, quoted in Groth 1994).  In many cases urban renewal efforts embodied a strong racial bias – a large proportion of the bulldozed neighborhoods had a majority of residents who were African-American, Chinese immigrants, or other communities of color.  Public officials generally disregarded the presence of the residents of districts that were targeted for urban renewal, denying that anyone was being displaced.  This “deliberate ignorance” (Groth 1994) was enabled and supported by the fact that residential hotels and rooming houses had been excluded from official housing definitions, thus perpetuating a condition of effective invisibility of SRO buildings and residents. Although systemic urban renewal efforts were the largest cause of the decline in SRO stock during the 1950s and 60s, it is important to note that other factors contributed to losses of SROs as well, including changes in urban employment patterns, downtown office expansion in many cities, and demolition of large urban areas to make way for highways and parking facilities.  Meanwhile, as the clearance of hotel and rooming house districts proceeded apace, certain other societal trends resulted in an 6 increase in the size of the population that relied on SROs as their only option for affordable and long-term shelter, including changes in family structure and life expectancy and de-institutionalization of mental patients (ibid).  Later, in the 1980s and 90s, new forces and pressures in urban areas altered the means by which SROs were eliminated from the low-income housing stock, but the impacts have been equally alarming.  Downtown redevelopment and reinvestment schemes combined with a renewed interest in central-city living in many cities have led to conversions of SRO units to upscale condominiums or to more expensive hotels for tourists.  High land values due to central locations and proximity to revitalized central business districts have created tremendous financial incentives for SRO owners to tear down their buildings and replace them with more profitable uses. In many cases no official statistics were recorded during the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s as to how many SRO rooms were destroyed since, as mentioned above, these were not recognized as an important or legitimate type of housing.  Therefore, statistics on the original number of SROs and the number lost during the urban renewal period are often only estimates.  By the mid-70s, in response to the emergent SRO crisis, researchers and government-sponsored housing surveys had begun to document the decline of SROs in many cities.  A few examples illustrate the magnitude of losses of SRO stock: in Chicago there were once an estimated 35,000 SRO rooms; between the 1950s and mid-90s nearly 70% of the original stock was destroyed, and the number of rooms remaining in 1996 was estimated to be less than 15,000 (Butzen 1996).  In New York City in the 1950s there were approximately 200,000 SRO units; by 2001 there were believed to be less than 40,000 (Merrifield 2001). The movement to protect SRO housing stock From the early 1970s through the present there has been an ongoing trend in North American cities of SRO elimination, partially due to continuing demolitions but increasingly due to conversions to other uses.  In many cases there continue to be problems with the existing SRO housing stock in terms of physical conditions, apathetic or malicious management, and highly troublesome tenants.   But these challenges have been countered in many cities by an energetic movement by tenant activists, housing 7 advocates, and city officials to protect and stabilize existing SRO housing stock and to construct new forms of similar affordable housing. The cumulative effects of several acclaimed critiques of urban renewal that were published during the 1960s and the general climate of political and social activism that existed during the late 1960s and early 1970s gave rise to a pro-SRO movement.  During this period many SRO residents became more aware of their rights and, supported by seasoned community activists, learned how to organize into a viable social movement.  Gradually city planners and policymakers began to realize the mistakes of the past and to recognize the value of SROs as a special type of housing resource that, once lost, is extremely difficult to replace.  Legislation was passed in the 70s and 80s at the federal level in the U.S. that recognized tenants of residential hotels as bona fide city residents, improved the official status of hotels as a type of housing, and made SROs eligible for certain subsidies (although implementation of these policies was deferred and discouraged by the Republican administrations of the 80s).  Municipal governments began to adopt policies in the 1980s and 90s to restrict demolitions and conversions of SRO housing, and some cities searched for ways to encourage physical rehabilitation and better management of existing SROs as well as new construction of SROs or their modern equivalents (very small and inexpensive rental units containing better bath and kitchen facilities than traditional SROs). SROs today: their residents, their uses, and their significance While much progress has been made in establishing the importance of SROs and curbing their elimination, numerous challenges still exist for SRO tenants and advocates.  Perhaps the most fundamental and pervasive of these is the lingering discrepancy between perceptions and realities about SROs – many of the myths and negative views that were generated during the Progressive reform era still remain today.  Despite beliefs that are still perpetuated within society, not all SRO residents are socially marginal, alcoholics or drug addicts, disabled, on welfare, unemployed, or drifters and transients.  But for most, whatever their financial and life circumstances, an SRO room is the only housing they can afford. It is literally one step away from a homeless shelter or the street.  In the words of Haley (1989, 10), SROs are often “shelter of last resort.”  As such, they play a critical role in preventing homelessness.  In the 8 words of one municipal senior housing planner, “SROs won’t solve the homelessness problem, but you can’t solve homelessness without SROs” (J. Lenthall, quoted in Gallagher 1993, 21). At present there are a number of categories that encompass many, though certainly not all, SRO residents.  Some common examples are: elderly single residents whose incomes or savings are limited but who want to maintain their self-sufficiency and independence, formerly homeless persons who are making the transition back to the housing market, disabled persons who are unable to work or have limited earnings from their jobs, single working adults earning the minimum wage or slightly above, recently laid-off or chronically unemployed individuals, persons with mental illness or other psychological conditions, and individuals with active substance abuse problems or who are in recovery. Person in some of these categories, such as substance abusers and the mentally ill, are often referred to as “hard-to-house.”  A large segment of the SRO market has emerged to serve these and other types of “special needs” residents, including the physically disabled or elderly individuals with limited mobility – those who, for a variety of reasons, are not able to live in the traditional housing market.  Often SRO housing for special needs populations is integrated with strong linkages to nearby social service providers or even on-site social services – the so-called “supportive housing” concept.  Supportive SRO housing is one of very few options for the hard-to-house. When they are under private ownership SROs are still, as noted previously, the cheapest form of housing on the rental market.  Even in large North American cities where housing costs are extremely high, rents for SRO units tend to be in the range of $300-$450 per month, far below the average local cost for a rental apartment.  An increasing number of SROs are owned and/or managed by non-profit organizations, particularly those that operate according to the supportive housing model and serve special-needs tenants.  A small percentage of SROs are owned by city governments; these are usually operated by non-profit agencies. Finally, the physical condition of the buildings is a common problem for many SROs.  Though some owners have taken care to maintain, rehabilitate, and upgrade their properties, a large proportion of the SRO stock across the U.S. and Canada is in moderate or serious disrepair.  As Groth (1994, 264 and 9 298) notes, because “virtually no one built a new residential hotel between 1930 and 1980….99 percent of the inexpensive hotel rooms in the United States are in structures that are seventy years old or more.” Safety and health hazards are sometimes a serious concern.  Some SRO buildings have heritage value, either that has been preserved through careful rehabilitation and protected by official heritage designation, or that remains as a potential, but always threatened, historical asset. The case for preserving SRO housing For over a century SRO housing has played an important, though often overlooked and understated, role in housing a specific subset of the tenant population, namely single adults with low incomes and few personal possessions.  The demand for such housing in North American cities is perhaps stronger today than it has ever been.  Sadly, it took the near-extinction of SROs to turn around decades of comprehensive policies and actions aimed at their elimination and to lay the political and legal groundwork by which SROs can be acknowledged and protected as valuable and legitimate housing. Over the past 30 years American and Canadian planners and policymakers have realized the mistakes their profession has made in the past and come to understand the devastating impacts of these misdirected actions.  Interestingly, those characteristics that were once seen as justification for destroying SROs – density, mixture of uses, affordability, social diversity – are now being intentionally cultivated and re- created as the hallmarks of great cities.  In a similar spirit, planners are looking to SROs, a century-old form of housing, as inspiration for making new forms of housing that work for low-income and special- needs tenants. Even the most dedicated and vocal advocates acknowledge that the fight to preserve the remaining SRO stock is not an ultimate solution – deteriorating buildings, frequent management problems, and other challenges persist.  The argument frequently cited by SRO critics, that this type of housing is inadequate and that providing better housing is the more appropriate course of action, certainly contains an element of truth in that it is based on the desire for low-income tenants to have access to the same quality of housing that is expected by the rest of the renter population.  But reality can rarely live up to such ideals; instead balances and imperfect solutions must be struck.  As long as SROs represent the 10 “shelter of last resort” for so many tenants, and as long as they successfully serve the purpose of keeping people off the streets, they are a viable form of housing and there is ample justification for retaining them. 11 2.  CONTEXT FOR LOW-INCOME HOUSING AND SRO PRESERVATION IN VANCOUVER The City of Vancouver has been committed to supporting affordable housing and low-income tenants for over 50 years.  The City currently has a wide range of programs and policies related to social and affordable housing.  The need for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income renters in Vancouver is high, and will only continue to increase as the pressures of a growing population push up housing costs and as federal and provincial government funding for housing programs and income assistance are reduced. From 1995 to 1998 the City initiated a planning process for housing in low-income downtown neighborhoods.  Although the resulting policy document, the draft Housing Plan for the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, Gastown, and Strathcona, has not yet been officially adopted, the City has moved forward on some of the actions recommended in the plan, including measures to stabilize the existing low-income housing stock.  This planning process set the context for preserving existing single room occupancy housing and encouraging gradual replacement of this aging stock with better quality low- income housing. SROs and social, affordable, & low-income housing There is often a lack of clarity about the meanings of and distinctions between the terms ‘social,’ ‘affordable,’ and ‘low-income’ housing.  The terms are often used interchangeably, but there are small but clear differences between their respective meanings.  ‘Social housing’ refers to residential units that serve individuals and households who cannot afford market rents.  Social housing may be operated by government agencies, non-profit societies or co-operatives, and is supported partially or primarily by government funds (Gray 2001).  ‘Affordable housing,’ according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) definition, means shelter for which a household pays no more than 30% of its gross income.  This concept of affordability can be applied to rented or owned housing for individuals and families in all income ranges, but it is most often used in reference to low- to moderate-income households.  The term ‘low-income housing’ is more vague.  Formally, an individual’s or household’s status as ‘low-income’ is relative to the average income in a given geographical area as well as to family 12 size; CMHC sets income level definitions annually for the purpose of determining household eligibility for subsidized housing.  Informally, ‘low-income housing’ usually refers to shelter for individuals or households who are unemployed and/or receiving social assistance benefits, or who are working for pay rates at or near the minimum wage.  Low-income housing can include lower-cost market housing as well as subsidized (social) housing. Single room occupancy housing, then, is a subset of each of these types of housing.  When an SRO building is privately owned and units are rented out on the market to individuals with limited means to pay for housing, it is a type of low-income housing.  When an SRO is owned by a non-profit or government agency and receives government funding to subsidize rents or to pay for maintenance or operating costs, it functions as both low-income and social housing.  In order for an SRO to satisfy the official definition of ‘affordable housing,’ the rent charged must be equal to 30% or less of the tenant’s gross income (incidentally, SRO tenants often pay far higher percentages of their incomes for rent). The need for affordable housing in Vancouver Steady and rapid population growth in the City of Vancouver and the surrounding region over the past 20 years has contributed to consistently low vacancy rates and correspondingly high rents, which in turn have produced an urgent need for affordable housing solutions.  Between 1981 and 2001 the population of Vancouver increased by nearly 32% (City of Vancouver 2004b). Since the early 1980s the residential vacancy rate for the city has tended to fluctuate between about 0.5% and 1.5%, averaging approximately 1.0% (Gray 2001).  In comparison, a housing market is considered to be balanced when the vacancy rate is in the range of 2.5-3%.  According to CMHC’s November 2001 Rental Market Survey, the average rents in the City of Vancouver were $761 for a 1-bedroom apartment and $1059 for a 2-bedroom apartment – 14.4% higher for 1-bedrooms and 37.2% higher for 2-bedrooms than the average rents for the province of British Columbia as a whole (TRAC 2002a).  Over half of the renter households in the Vancouver region currently pay more rent than they can afford (TRAC 2002b). The need for affordable rental housing is likely to intensify in the future, in part because population growth is expected to remain strong during the next two decades.  Although the City does not 13 have an official population projection, Vancouver’s CityPlan and the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s Growth Management Scenario both anticipate that the City of Vancouver will accommodate nearly 90,000 additional residents by 2021 – an increase of 16% over the 2001 population level (City of Vancouver 2004b). Homelessness issues also have a critical relationship to the City’s affordable housing agenda. Homelessness is currently recognized as a serious problem in Vancouver and is predicted to increase substantially in the coming years.  Although the number of homeless persons in the city is inherently difficult to quantify because there is no way to systematically locate, count, and document them, a study commissioned by the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) on homelessness in the region, based on a “snapshot survey” conducted during a 24-hour period in January 2002, estimated that there are about 1200 homeless individuals on the street and in shelters across the region on any given night.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual number may be nearly twice as high (GVRD 2002).  The January 2002 survey indicated that approximately 60% of the region’s homeless are located in the City of Vancouver (ibid).  Furthermore, a sharp increase has occurred in recent years in the number of individuals and households who are economically at risk of homelessness (those who are spending 50% or more of their income on housing).  In 1996 there were about 130,000 people at risk of homelessness in the Greater Vancouver region, and in the City of Vancouver nearly 10% of all households in were considered at risk of homelessness (ibid). Efforts to address the problem of homelessness at the regional level, coordinated by the GVRD, have been underway since 2000.  The GVRD adopted a “Regional Homelessness Plan for Greater Vancouver” in March 2001, which lays out a three-part strategy for working toward solutions to homelessness: creating and enhancing a continuum of housing, ensuring adequate household income, and delivering and enhancing support services (GVRD 2003).  The City of Vancouver has endorsed the GVRD Regional Homelessness Plan and has affirmed that several of its existing policy objectives and initiatives, including measures to maintain and enhance permanent affordable housing and to provide 14 support services to tenants with special needs, are consistent with the strategies recommended in the Homelessness Plan. Impact of federal and provincial policies on Vancouver’s affordable housing A report on the state of social housing in Vancouver explains that “the federal government, through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), provided most of the funding until 1993 when it ceased funding new social housing….CMHC continues to subsidize social housing projects built in BC before 1994.  Prior to the withdrawal of Federal funding for new social housing, the Federal Government was funding two thirds and the Province one third of the cost” (Gray 2001).  Since that time, the Province has continued funding new social housing at the same level it had previously.  As of 2001 the Province spent $125 million each year subsidizing the existing stock of social housing and an additional $5 million per year to develop new social housing, but this allowed for less than half the number of units built when the federal government was an active partner (TRAC 2002b).  Beginning in the early 1990s the province’s Homes BC program funded the development of 600 units of social housing annually across British Columbia.  This program was cancelled in 2001 and replaced with Supportive Living BC, which funds housing and care for the elderly in assisted and supportive living facilities. Because the focus of this program is on the related housing and health needs of elderly, the housing needs of a wide range of other low-income groups are now going unaddressed. The cumulative impact of senior government actions during the past decade has increased the responsibility of municipalities to deal with social housing.  In 1992 the BC provincial government began enacting amendments to the Municipal Act (later renamed as the Local Government Act) that gave local governments “a variety of tools designed to increase their powers to support the creation of affordable housing in their communities” (TRAC 2002b).  During the same timeframe, housing market forces in Vancouver have rendered the role of municipal government in the administration of affordable housing programs as not only a legal responsibility, but also a pressing civil obligation. More recent changes to provincial legislation have severely reduced income assistance payments to thousands of British Columbians, with obvious negative impacts on the ability of low-income 15 individuals and families to afford housing.  In 2002 the shelter allowance portion of income assistance payments was reduced for single parent families, individuals between 55-64 years of age, and families of three or more.  As of April 1, 2004 new time limits on income assistance payments will take effect, restricting the amount of time that welfare recipients can collect benefits to 2 out of every 5 years.  The new time limits are expected to cause thousands of Vancouver area residents to become homeless. The City of Vancouver’s policies and programs for social and affordable housing The City of Vancouver’s current objectives and policies for social housing originated at the city- sponsored Housing Symposium in May 1989.  One of the objectives that guides all decisions and policies related to social housing is to “maintain and expand housing opportunities in Vancouver for low and moderate income households, with priority being given to downtown lodging house residents, elderly people on fixed and limited incomes, the physically and mentally disabled, and single-parent families with children” (Gray 2001). The City’s Housing Centre, established in 1992, is the agency that is responsible for social housing programs and policy.  Current municipal initiatives include: • Leasing of city-owned land for social housing projects • Purchase of sites by the City • Requiring all major new multi-family residential developments to include 20% of the units as social housing • Operation of 770 units of social housing through the City’s Non-Market Operations Division • An Affordable Housing Fund to provide grants for social housing projects developed on city- owned land • A Tenant Assistance Program to provide relocation advice and assistance to tenants who have been displaced by redevelopment as well as legal information on tenant/landlord rights and responsibilities In planning its programs and initiatives for low-income housing the City gives special consideration to the Downtown Eastside neighborhood, where a large proportion of Vancouver’s low- income housing stock is concentrated.  Although the City aims to achieve a balance of low-income housing distributed evenly throughout neighborhoods, it also recognizes the necessity of maintaining and improving the existing stock of low-income housing downtown.  In 1998 the Housing Centre, in conjunction with the Central Area Planning and Social Planning departments, completed a draft housing 16 plan for the Downtown Eastside and adjacent areas, including Chinatown, Gastown, and Strathcona (City of Vancouver, 1998).  The plan was never formally adopted, but the principles expressed in the plan have informed and influenced interim City housing policies.  Some of the specific current policies related to housing in the Downtown Eastside are to “maintain and upgrade housing for existing residents, improve existing SROs and build replacement low-income housing, and encourage a diversity of housing” (Davidson 2003). In September 2003 the Housing Centre urged the Vancouver City Council to reactivate the planning process for housing in the Downtown Eastside in order that the draft Housing Plan can be updated and finalized.  With respect to SROs specifically, the plan calls for “securing the existing amount of housing for low-income people, gradually replacing that stock with better quality and better managed low-income housing. The strategies to achieve this include replacing the SROs with social housing and smaller suites [at a 1:1 replacement ratio], securing and upgrading some SROs, and ensuring the remaining SROs are well managed and maintained” (City of Vancouver 1998). The plan further estimates that that the demand for low-income housing for singles within the region would increase by more than 20,000 units between 1998 and 2008 (ibid).  In order to meet this demand the plan calls for new low-income housing to be accommodated throughout the city as well as in the downtown area, at a rate of 90-110 units per year in the housing plan area (Downtown Eastside, Gastown, Chinatown, Strathcona), 30-40 units per year in Downtown South, and 30-50 in other areas of the city. The City of Vancouver is also involved in a number of low-income housing-related and SRO- related projects in partnership with the federal and provincial governments as part of the Vancouver Agreement.  This five-year agreement, adopted in March 2000, is “a commitment by the federal government, the Province of BC, and the City of Vancouver to work together to support sustainable economic, social and community development in Vancouver” (City of Vancouver 2004c).  The agreement addresses the entire city, but the initial focus of work is in the Downtown Eastside.  Actions initiated under the Vancouver Agreement that relate to low-income housing and SROs include a pilot SRO management training course that addresses the building maintenance and tenant management aspects of SRO operation; pest control projects; a job skill development program for SRO tenants; and supportive 17 housing projects for persons recovering from substance abuse (Vancouver Agreement Coordination Unit 2004).  It should be noted that federal and provincial funds committed to housing projects through the Vancouver Agreement limited and are a special exception to the trend described earlier of senior governments withdrawing from funding social housing. Status of the SRO housing stock in Vancouver According to a consultant study commissioned by the City of Vancouver (Mauboules and Edelson 2003, Appendix E p. 1), between 1970 and 2003, “6,685 SRO rooms have been lost to conversions, redevelopment, and closures due to fires and health and safety reasons.  The development of 5,895 new social housing units…has partially compensated for this loss.”  This illustrates an important point about the City’s approach to low-income housing: Vancouver is like other large North American cities in that it has experienced significant losses to its original SRO housing stock, but it is different from most cities in its degree of success in creating new low-income housing (due largely to the City’s policy requiring 20% social housing in all new multi-family residential projects).  Development of social housing in Vancouver has come close to keeping pace with the loss of SRO rooms over the past 30 years. The City hopes to continue this pattern of replacing older low-income units with new social housing at or near the same rate that they are lost, but “the City is concerned that it may not be possible to provide sufficient social housing in the future if the rate of SRO losses continues” (ibid). The majority of remaining SRO units in Vancouver are located in a geographical area that the City refers to as the downtown core (Figure 1) – “the area bounded on the north by Burrard Inlet, on the west by Burrard Street, on the south by False Creek and on the east by Clark Drive” (Mauboules and Edelson 2003, 6). 18 Figure 1:  The downtown core.  Source: Mauboules and Edelson 2003 The downtown core includes the neighborhoods of Downtown South and the Downtown Eastside, both of which have a long history as low-income communities and have established social networks and services for low-income residents, as well as the districts of Gastown, Chinatown, and Strathcona that are encompassed by the 1998 draft housing plan.  According to the City of Vancouver’s survey data, at present there are approximately 6,300 SRO rooms in the downtown core area (ibid). The Single Room Accommodation By-Law One of the specific outcomes of the 1995-1998 planning process for housing in the Downtown Eastside was the City’s recognition that a new mechanism was needed to control the loss of existing SRO housing.  In 1997 the City made a successful request to the provincial government to amend the Vancouver Charter by granting the City the authority to regulate conversions and demolitions of SROs. In October 2003 the Vancouver City Council enacted the Single Room Accommodation By-law, which establishes procedures and guidelines for regulating demolition and conversion to other uses of housing units located in the downtown core that are designated as Single Room Accommodation (SRA).  Under the new regulations, a building owner must obtain a permit in order to convert or demolish designated SRA rooms. Designation of SRA rooms under the by-law is based on the City’s 2003 Survey of Low-Income Housing in the Downtown Core.   The City has monitored changes in the downtown core’s low-income housing stock bi-annually for the past 12 years; the most recent version of the survey provided a readily accessible and mostly accurate source of information with which to officially identify the specific living units that would be subject to the provisions of the by-law.  Rooms designated as SRA include non- market units that are less than 320 square feet and rooms in residential hotels (or SROs), rooming houses and other buildings included in the 2003 Survey.  The owner of a building with SRA rooms must post a notice in the building that specifies the legal status of the rooms. The SRA by-law draws a distinction between rooms used primarily for permanent residential purposes and those used primarily for tourists or transient guests.  If an owner of a hotel containing rooms that are designated as SRA provides sufficient evidence that the rooms are rented mainly to tourists and 19 not to longer-term, low-income tenants, those rooms can be removed from the City’s list of designated SRA units.  Similarly, exemptions from the SRA designation are allowed for rooms that are larger than 320 square feet.  In many cases a building may contain a mix of tourist and residential (SRA) rooms. An owner of a building with designated SRA rooms who wishes to convert or demolish one or more of these rooms must first apply to the City for a conversion or demolition permit.  Actions that constitute conversion include: changes in the form of occupancy (i.e. residential or tourist), the term or nature of tenancy to which the resident is entitled, or the frequency of rent payments; major repairs or alterations; and reclassification of the building.  Several factors are considered in the permit review process, including the existing supply of low-cost accommodations and projected future availability, the quality of the housing stock to be converted or demolished, and any other relevant factors such as heritage value. The City may deny the permit, approve it outright, or approve it with conditions attached. Examples of conditions that may be applied under the by-law are (1) payment by the building owner of $5000 per room to be converted or demolished into the City’s reserve fund for replacement low-income housing, (2) the requirement that the owner enter into a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the City, and (3) preparation of a tenant relocation plan that provides for payment of tenants’ moving costs by the building owner and/or, in cases of conversions that involve restoration of SRA rooms, granting tenants the right of first refusal to occupy the restored rooms if they are still part of the SRA stock.  The SRA by- law also provides for a penalty of $50-$2000 per room for illegal conversions or demolitions and other infractions. The by-law attempts to make reasonable concessions for owners to continue to rent rooms designated as SRA to tourists under certain specified conditions, in order to allow owners to receive the higher revenues paid by nightly guests that are often important in order for a hotel to remain financially viable.  An owner is required to obtain a seasonal permit from the City in order to offer SRA rooms as tourist accommodations; these nightly rentals are allowed only during the summer months (June 1 – September 30).  In order to rent a designated SRA room to a transient guest, the building owner is 20 required to: (1) arrange for the permanent resident of that room to relocate to a comparable accommodation during that time period at equal or lesser rent, (2) offer the permanent resident right of first refusal to return the same room to at the end of the summer tourist season, and (3) pay his/her moving expenses to and from the room.  In addition, the by-law allows owners to rent up to 10% of vacant designated SRA rooms in their buildings on a nightly basis as long as two conditions are satisfied: (1) the room is vacant either because the last permanent resident voluntarily left or the owner terminated the tenancy because of lack of rent payment or for other just cause under the BC Residential Tenancy Act, and (2) the owner rents the room to a permanent resident within seven days if one applies for tenancy. The enactment of the SRA by-law provided for an initial ‘monitoring’ period of 18 months.  It is expected that revisions will be made to the by-law after city staff evaluate the effectiveness of implementation at the close of 18 months.  City planning staff are aware of some of the potential problems and drawbacks of the by-law and want to find ways to improve its administration and enhance its effectiveness.  Specifically, they are interested in offering positive incentives to SRO building owners instead of relying strictly on a regulatory framework. The remainder of this report is dedicated to case studies of four North American cities that enacted policies to regulate conversion and demolition of SRO housing stock in the 1980s and 1990s. The case studies also highlight efforts by some of the cities to encourage development of new SRO housing or similar forms of small living units for low-income individuals.  The purposes of the case studies are: (1) to gain insight into strengths and weaknesses among a range of municipal policies for SRO preservation and development, (2) to identify challenges in implementing these policies and how municipalities have responded to those challenges, and (3) to identify strategies that have contributed to better implementation and compliance.  It is hoped that the City of Vancouver can use these lessons from the experiences of other municipal governments in order to maximize the effectiveness of its SRA by-law and ensure that it will become part of the City’s political consensus in the future. 21 3.  CITY PROFILES: CASE STUDIES OF MUNICIPAL SRO POLICIES This chapter contains descriptive profiles of municipal policies and initiatives related to preservation and new development of SRO housing in San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, and Toronto.  Each of these cities has affirmed, through local ordinances or by-laws, the necessity of retaining SRO stock as long-term housing for low- income tenants by controlling demolitions and conversions.  To varying degrees, the cities featured here have also launched a range of initiatives to support SRO buildings, owners, and tenants in a variety of ways: financial incentives to ensure the continued economic viability of residential hotels, programs to provide job training and operational support to owners and managers, tenant assistance programs to help SRO residents who have been displaced or subjected to mistreatment by landlords, and others.  Some of the cities have also undertaken ambitious steps to encourage development of new SRO buildings or other innovative forms of small rental units for low-income residents that are based on reinterpretations of the old SRO model. In comparing policies for SRO preservation and related initiatives, several common themes emerge.  The following list (Figure 2) reflects different aspects of SRO policies as well as external factors and issues related 22 FIGURE 2: Themes and issues related to SRO preservation, conditions, tenants and management • Definition and designation of SRO units – clarity and complexity or simplicity of how affected units are identified • Distinction between tourist use and residential use, and how/to what extent tourist use is allowed • Health and safety conditions of buildings – adequacy of units as living accommodations, especially for special needs populations (elderly, persons with AIDS, etc) • Treatment of SRO residents by building owners and violations of legal rights – how/to what extent the City provides and enforces tenant protection measures • Difficult or “hard to house” tenants – supports for tenants, supports for building operators • Conversion and demolition policies – under what circumstances conversions and demolitions are allowed and what mitigation actions are required • Policies for replacement of converted or demolished units – replacement methods and options • Tenant rights related to owner’s application to demolish or convert – notification of application or termination of tenancy, relocation assistance, etc • Penalties and fines for illegal conversions or demolitions and for other violations of the by-law or ordinance; how the City uses funds collected • Incentives for SRO preservation – funds for physical rehabilitation or operations, measures to ensure income and profitability for owners, measures to improve and support management • Cooperation and coordination between multiple city agencies with respect to permit application processing and administration of policies, SRO support initiatives, building inspection, etc. • Monitoring and evaluation of policies – measuring and enhancing success of implementation and compliance to SROs that will be discussed further.  It is based on concepts and details that appear frequently in local policies and regulations related to SROs as well as in popular and academic literature on SROs. San Francisco San Francisco’s residential hotel culture was among the most highly developed of any city in the U.S. from the early 20th century onward, and consequently San Francisco was one of the first cities to feel the pressure of the SRO crisis in the 1960s and 70s.  On November 21, 1979 the City of San Francisco declared a moratorium on demolitions and conversions of residential hotel units.  In 1981 an ordinance titled “Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition” was passed. San Francisco is one of the world’s premier tourist destinations and tourism is extremely important to the economy of the city and region.  Reflecting this situation, one of the central features of the SRO ordinance is the distinction it draws between SRO hotel rooms used by tourists and those used by permanent or long-term residents.  The design of the ordinance attempts to balance several goals: • Ensuring no further losses to the existing SRO housing stock • Preserving the availability of a large proportion of SRO hotel rooms for low-income residents and ensuring that these tenants are given priority over tourists to the greatest reasonable degree • Acknowledging the importance of the tourist industry to the City’s economy • Protecting SRO owners’ rights by allowing them to continue collecting tourist revenues during the summer months, to a certain extent and under tightly regulated circumstances Designation of SRO units The current version of the ordinance defines “residential use” of a hotel room as occupancy by an individual tenant for seven or more consecutive days.   However, the distinction between tourist and residential rooms is fluid and can change under the ordinance’s “temporary change of occupancy” provision.  The main purpose of the “temporary change of occupancy” clause is to permit hotel owners to rent vacant rooms with the residential designation to tourists during the summer season (May 1 - Sept 30). This applies as long as the room is legally vacant (i.e. the previous long-term tenant was not evicted on illegal grounds) and it is rented to a permanent resident immediately if one applies for tenancy.  No more than 25% of the residential units in a building may be temporarily changed to tourists units at any given time.  A room’s designation may be temporarily changed from tourist to residential at any time. 23 The ordinance requires extensive record keeping by SRO hotel operators in order to ensure compliance with the residential and tourist designation of rooms.  Operators must keep daily logs of tenants and guests as well as prepare weekly reports, which must be made available to the Department of Building Inspection upon request.  In addition, building owners must submit a “snapshot report” – one day’s worth of daily logs – once each quarter, and on November 1 of each year they must file an annual usage report with the Department of Building Inspection. Policies on conversions & demolitions and replacement of units One-for-one replacement of converted or demolished SRO units is required under San Francisco’s ordinance.  Applications for conversion permits must be approved as-of-right as long as this condition is satisfied.  The owner/applicant may opt for one of several different methods of replacement: • Construction of comparable units • Causing units that are not designated as residential hotel rooms under the ordinance to be brought back into the housing market • Payment of 80% of construction costs for replacement units, plus land acquisition costs • Construction of housing units for the elderly or disabled, or emergency/transitional housing units (the replacement ratio may be less than 1:1 in order to encourage these special needs housing types) Applications for demolition permits may be approved only when this action is ordered by the Director of Public Works or by the State Superior Court, or when necessitated by fire or other natural causes.  When a demolition is ordered under these circumstances, the owner/applicant is still responsible for replacement of lost units and for tenant relocation assistance. At present there are nearly 500 “active hotels” (privately owned) in San Francisco that are affected by the ordinance, with a total of 16,015 residential rooms and 3,845 tourist rooms.  In addition, there are 61 hotels under non-profit ownership containing 3,478 residential rooms and 988 tourist rooms (Bosque 2004).  The main distinction between “active” and non-profit hotels in the ordinance is that non- profits do not have to follow the same requirements for record keeping as private ones.  No data are readily available on the total number of SRO units converted and demolished since the ordinance has been in effect (these numbers are only available for current permit applications). According to the City’s Chief Housing Inspector, over the past seven to eight years only a handful of permits to convert have been reviewed since the consequence of the City’s controls is that only 24 buildings on the periphery of the City’s tourist corridor are economically viable to convert.  When conversions are approved, however, payment of fees in lieu of replacing units is the most popular option. In-lieu fees tend to range from $20,000 to $40,000 per room; the exact amount to be paid is determined by two independent appraisals based on a formula established by the City. In the past seven to eight years, in-lieu fees have been collected for two hotel conversions, the Powell Hotel ($1.7 million) and the San Remo Hotel ($537,000).1  (ibid). These fees are deposited to the City’s residential hotel preservation fund, which is located within the Department of Building Inspection, and subsequently transferred to the Mayor’s Office of Housing to be expended. Tenant rights to notification and relocation assistance San Francisco’s ordinance requires that SRO hotel owners observe and respect the rights of tenants during and after the conversion or demolition permit application process.  In the case of an application to convert, the owner/applicant must notify in a timely manner all permanent residents in the building, as well as any interested community organizations, of the permit application and all related hearings and decisions.  If the permit is approved and units are converted, the owner/applicant must offer each permanent resident a comparable available rental unit in the same building (if any) or in the replacement building (if any).  If a permit is approved for either demolition or conversion, permanent residents are legally entitled to remain in their units for up to 60 days after the date of issuance. Displaced tenants are also entitled to reimbursement of moving costs up to $300 per person. Penalties and fines The penalty for illegal conversions is equal to three times the daily rate charged per day for each illegally converted unit from the day a complaint is filed until the day that the unit is returned to its legal use.  In addition, the owner may be required to reimburse enforcement and legal costs to the City or to the person who filed a complaint against the illegal conversion.  Other penalties established by the ordinance include small fines ($100-$1000) and infraction (first violation) and misdemeanor (subsequent violations) charges for falsification of information or for failure by SRO hotel operators to maintain required records of use, file the annual usage report, or post required notices for tenants. 1  In-lieu fees for the San Remo Hotel were paid after several years of litigation by the City, the cost of which was far in excess of the funds collected for replacement housing (Bosque 2004). 25 Implementation and enforcement: successes and challenges The City of San Francisco has demonstrated in principle the intention to establish structures that would provide comprehensive support for the SRO regulations.  The original preservation ordinance makes reference to the formation of a San Francisco Residential Hotel Advisory Committee, comprised of for-profit and non-profit hotel operators and the Deputy Mayor for Housing, the purpose of which is to “advise the Mayor’s Office of Housing on…proposed revisions to this ordinance [and] programs that various City agencies should develop to assist the City’s residential hotel operators” (San Francisco Administrative Code 2003).  The official San Francisco Government website currently displays information about a SRO Hotel Safety and Stabilization Task Force, located within the Department of Administrative Services, whose mission is “to monitor, develop and present recommendations to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors regarding policies and procedures around fire prevention, investigations and prosecution of SRO violators, and stabilization of hotel tenants and residents” (City of San Francisco 2004).  However, according to the City official who is chiefly responsible for the SRO regulations, neither the task force nor the advisory committee was ever actually established (Bosque 2004). Department of Building Inspection carries out administration, implementation and enforcement of the SRO regulations.  The conclusion that can be drawn is that the focus of the SRO preservation ordinance has narrowed to simply ensuring the physical continuation of the SRO stock and maintaining its status as permanent housing for low-income tenants.  Although the apparent original intent of the ordinance was to create a broad administrative framework to support the regulations and develop complementary measures to improve SRO conditions and assist tenants and landlords, the City’s follow- through on these objectives has been minimal.  Some strategies have been applied to support owners and tenants and encourage residential hotel owners and operators to comply with the terms of the ordinance; for example, the City offers as a positive incentive the provision that allows owners to rent a limited number of residential units to tourists during the summer months, thereby increasing their income stream and improving the hotels’ economic viability.  In addition, the purpose of monitoring oversight is currently served by active, City-funded collaborative groups of housing advocates, tenants, and landlords. 26 But to a large extent there remains a missed opportunity for the City to assist SRO building owners and tenants through innovative programs and support structures. The Department of Building Inspection has pursued code enforcement litigation as well as defensive litigation against parties who have tried to strike down the ordinance as unconstitutional. According to the San Francisco’s Chief Housing Inspector, “There’s a lot of housekeeping that needs to be done [with respect to the regulations], but for years we couldn’t do this because any amendments we made to the ordinance opened it up to attack” (Bosque 2004).  Staff at the City of San Francisco offer several insights based on the lessons they have learned over several years of administering the SRO regulations: first, it is important to define “residential use” carefully and clearly; and second, it is essential that all parts of the ordinance or by-law are consistent with other regulations that apply to that jurisdiction.  An example from San Francisco’s experience illustrates these points: as mentioned above, the definition for “residential use” in the current ordinance is seven days of continuous occupancy by an individual tenant, but this is inconsistent with the City’s rent control ordinance (which takes effect when a tenant has occupied a rental unit for 32 consecutive days), thereby causing administrative complications. Finally, ensuring good bookkeeping by hotel operators is very important because, for example, if a residential hotel is destroyed by fire, accurate records of tenants’ identities are critical in order to locate those tenants and offer them right of first refusal to occupy replacement housing (ibid). According to John Elberling, a seasoned professional in San Francisco’s non-profit low-income housing community, the City’s SRO regulations have been “90% effective” in achieving their primary goal of preserving as much of the hotel stock as possible for lower-income tenants – although some illegal conversions take place, the bulk of the SRO rooms remain in residential use as intended (Elberling 2004). The regulations have been far less successful at protecting tenant rights.  The greatest limitation in the effectiveness of the regulations is the City’s passive approach to enforcement, i.e. they do not verify the information submitted in the records that hotel operators are required by law to maintain, nor do they otherwise make consistent efforts to deal with violations of the ordinance or problems with hotel conditions or management.  City staff acknowledge that the Department of Building Inspection is supposed to conduct “surprise” on-site inspections of SRO hotels to verify information contained in the 27 records and to assess the condition of the buildings, but these inspections are not routinely carried out (Bosque 2004).  Elberling (2004) contends that the tendency is for the City not to take action on enforcement unless a complaint is filed. The SRO preservation ordinance empowers any resident of the city (whether or not s/he is a tenant of the building in question), as well as any watchdog group, to sue for damages against a property owner who has illegally converted residential units.  Housing advocacy groups such as the Tenderloin Housing Clinic sometimes exercise this option, but Elberling (2004) asserts that in practice this course of action is rarely utilized by tenants since it is an arduous and time-consuming process that can take up to three years to resolve, and consequently tenants have few viable options for dealing with landlords who violate the ordinance. Ongoing problems with SROs In the early 21st century tenant advocates and watchdog groups contended that serious problems persisted relative to SRO buildings and operations in San Francisco, including such practices by SRO owners as “preventing SRO tenants from establishing tenant rights, [trying] to convert residential hotels to tourist use, and [maintaining] slum conditions” (Cell 2003).  SRO building operators would commonly “evict tenants every few weeks in order to prevent them from gaining the legal rights of permanent residents, [which occurs] after a continuous stay of…32 days under city law” (ibid).  As mentioned previously the City’s rent control regulations also take effect for residential hotel rooms after a tenant has been in residence for 32 days, so some owners have refused to rent rooms for longer than two to four consecutive weeks in order to evade rent control.  The City finally closed this loophole in 2003 with the passage of regulations that protect residential hotel tenants against these illegal early evictions. In the City’s view the most serious maintenance issue in SRO hotels is the risk of fire due to illegal cooking in rooms, tenants smoking and disabling smoke detectors in their rooms, and outdated wiring (tenants frequently use small appliances or other devices in their rooms that the antiquated wiring is insufficient to handle) (Bosque 2004).  Losses of SRO housing due to fire have significantly diminished the available stock – an estimated 500-600 units have been destroyed by fire during the past several years (Elberling 2004).  The City addressed this issue by requiring installation of sprinklers in SRO hotels as of 28 2003, but enforcing compliance has been somewhat problematic since no funding was offered to assist building owners with this substantial expense (Bosque 2004).  In order to enforce maintenance code violations the City Attorney can order injunctions as well as require training for building owners (ibid). Cell (2003) provides a detailed account of the horrific physical condition of SRO buildings in San Francisco, including “no heat; blocked fire exits (some nailed shut); broken windows, door handles, [and] lights; damaged walls…and stairs; inoperable smoke detectors and bare electrical outlets; filthy carpets and bathrooms; and trash in the halls.”   Other current problems related to SROs include high turnover rates among tenants and very high rents (presently about $600 for private market SROs), which frequently results in two-person occupancy of SRO rooms (Elberling 2004). New SRO development There is a well-established and active non-profit housing development movement in San Francisco.  Numerous community development corporations (CDCs) and other community-based housing providers have become involved in rehabilitating older, decayed residential stock and converting it to affordable housing as well as in the production of new stock.  These refurbished and newly constructed units are complete and self-contained (essentially small studio apartments) rather than having shared or incomplete baths and kitchens, but they are targeted to the same tenant market as older SROs.  Major rehabilitation projects of old SRO hotels often involve the installation of “kitchenettes” (i.e. a microwave oven and compact refrigerator, but no stove) in order to reduce fire and health risks (Bosque 2004). The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) is the quasi-public entity that interfaces with non-profit housing developers on construction and renovation projects.  SFRA is not technically part of the municipal government, but it carries out the City’s policies and priorities for urban redevelopment. The SFRA finances affordable housing development through tax increment financing2 (24% of the Agency’s total budget); borrowing through the sale of tax allocation bonds (31%); and non-tax increment revenue sources including land sale proceeds, leases, grants, and developer contributions (45%) (SFRA 2  Tax increment financing is “a way of pledging some of the increased taxes that result when property is redeveloped to pay the costs of associated public investment. For example, if redevelopment will generate $10 million in additional taxes each year, that $10 million could be pledged for say 25 years to re-pay a $90 million bond. That $90 million would now be available for public improvements such as subway construction that are necessary to the redevelopment” (Casella 2002, 1). 29 2004).  Non-profit housing providers are also eligible to receive federal subsidies for rehabilitation or construction of low-income housing, including U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), HUD Section 8 project-based assistance, and Section 8 tenant-based assistance (administered locally by the San Francisco Housing Authority). Elberling (2004) estimates that over the past decade in the City of San Francisco, about 500 new low-income units have been constructed and thousands of older hotel rooms have been renovated and converted to permanent affordable housing.  Non-profit housing providers are responsible for virtually all of this activity, since private developers cannot gain access to the subsidies that are necessary to finance the projects (ibid).  Most of the housing rehabilitation and construction for low-income tenants has been concentrated in the SoMa (South of Market) district, which was historically one of the city’s largest and most established residential hotel districts.  With respect to development of new SROs/small suites in SoMa, the SFRA oversees the Redevelopment Plan for the South of Market Earthquake Recovery Project, the purpose of which is “to repair, restore, and replace buildings and physical infrastructure damaged by the [1989 Loma Prieta] earthquake” (SFRA 2004).  Millions of dollars in disaster relief funds have been expended on low-income housing rehabilitation and construction in SoMa. In summary, SFRA provides a supportive framework within which non-profit developers can carry out construction and rehabilitation projects, but the City itself has not engaged in specific and coordinated planning to encourage development of housing to replace the aging residential hotel stock. The vast majority of the initiative and energy for new low-income housing production in San Francisco has come from the non-profit sector. Concluding remarks on SROs in San Francisco As it stands on the books, San Francisco’s Residential Hotel Conversion and Demolition ordinance provides a strong framework for preserving SRO hotel stock as housing for low-income tenants as well as recognizing owners’ needs to supplement their rental income with tourism revenues.  However, the City has not followed through with plans to create mechanisms needed to support the ordinance, and enforcement efforts are weak; as a result the regulations seem to have lost much of their political force over the years.  Moreover, in the absence of incentives designed to work in combination with restrictions 30 on conversions and demolitions that would encourage owners to maintain and improve properties, the regulations have tended to contribute to a gradual decline in the quality of the SRO stock, often resulting in substandard and unsafe living conditions.  Fortunately the non-profit housing sector has flourished in its efforts to rehabilitate and construct new housing for low-income individuals despite relative inaction on the City’s part.    San Diego San Diego’s SRO Hotel Preservation Ordinance was passed in 1987 following a City-imposed moratorium on conversion, alteration, and demolition of SRO units in early 1986.  The purpose of San Diego’s SRO hotel regulations is twofold: “To ensure the retention of the existing number of SRO hotel rooms and to provide assistance to tenants of SRO hotel rooms that will be displaced by the demolition, conversion, or rehabilitation of existing SRO hotel rooms” (San Diego Municipal Code 2000).  The current version of the ordinance, which has been in effect since January 2000, is fairly simple, short, and straightforward; it emphasizes housing replacement requirements and tenant relocation compensation. As of March 2004 the San Diego Housing Commission, the agency responsible for administering the City’s SRO regulations, was in the process of making major revisions to the SRO ordinance.  Some of the planned changes, which were prompted in part by recent litigation against the City, are a response to ongoing challenges regarding the definition of SRO hotels and disputes as to whether the regulations apply to certain buildings.  Other changes are aimed at moving past a strictly regulatory environment to offering incentives for SRO upgrading and new development.  The Housing Commission is currently waiting to see the outcomes of three downtown district community plan updates that are in progress and how they might affect the proposed changes to the regulations.  The revisions have the strong support of the San Diego City Council and are expected to be adopted in the summer of 2004. Designation of SRO units Reading the definitions of the terms “SRO hotel” and “SRO hotel room” in the San Diego Land Development Code, which are the definitions that determine which buildings and living units fall under the authority of the SRO preservation ordinance, it is easy to see why there has been confusion regarding 31 interpretation and application of the terms.  An SRO hotel room is defined as “a guest room in an SRO hotel that is 70-220 square feet which may have private or shared sanitary facilities but does not contain a kitchen,” while an SRO hotel is a “hotel of which at least 20% of guest rooms are SRO hotel rooms” (ibid).  The definitions are stated in relation to one another, in effect creating a cyclical and vague definition that has no clear point of reference.  Thus, the ordinance lacks a clear and irrefutable system for specifying which buildings or living units are subject to the regulations. The 2004 revisions to the SRO regulations propose to use the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) as a means of identifying commercial hotels that provide long-term housing to low-income persons.  The TOT, which was originally intended to exempt SROs from certain fees that must be paid by hotels providing tourist accommodation, can be used to indicate those hotels that are used for longer-term occupancy and are affordable to low-income tenants.  It therefore provides a convenient tool to which the City could tie the definition of buildings that are intended to have protection under the SRO regulations. Policies on conversions & demolitions and replacement of units San Diego’s policies on conversions and demolitions are based on a simple regulatory framework: applications are approved provided that requirements are met for lost unit replacement and tenant assistance.  One-for-one replacement is required and several replacement options are permitted: • Construction of new SRO rooms • Rehabilitation or conversion of hotel rooms that have been continuously vacant for more than a year • Conversion of non-residential structures to SRO rooms • Monetary contribution to the SRO Hotel Replacement Fund in the amount of 50% of the replacement cost of the lost units.  This amount is calculated as one-half the floor area of the building being demolished or converted, times the current development cost per square foot of comparable SRO buildings in San Diego Any replacement units must be in the same community plan area as those lost.  In addition, they must be made available to very low-income households (according to HUD definitions for San Diego) and rents must be restricted to 30% of household income.  Building owners who convert or demolish SRO rooms are required to provide only capital costs for replacement units and are not responsible for operational costs.  The City subsequently regulates rents for the replacement units regardless of whether they are under private or non-profit management. 32 The ordinance specifies a few types of conversions and demolitions that are exempt from the regulations, including those that will make way for other types of low-income housing projects and redevelopment projects which, in the opinion of the City Council, would provide public benefits (e.g. health, safety, welfare, etc) that are greater than the negative impact of the loss of the SRO housing.  In addition, a permit application must be denied if any tenant has been evicted from the building during the past 180 days for any other reason than the following: failure to pay rent, breach of lease, creating a nuisance, or using his/her room for an illegal purpose. One of the goals of the San Diego Housing Commission in designing amendments to the SRO regulations is “to ensure that the rights of SRO hotel owners, as well as tenants, are protected” (SD SRO OATF 2003).  In the interest of moderating the financial burden on owners who wish to convert or demolish SRO units, the Housing Commission is now proposing to monitor the inventory of SROs and Living Units in San Diego and to waive the requirements for one-for-one replacement of SRO units or in- lieu fees if the number of units remains above an established minimum threshold (currently proposed as 3000 rooms).  If approved, the result of these changes will be that owners will not be penalized for reducing the overall number of SRO units in the city as long as the quantity of that stock remains at a level that the City considers adequate.  In addition, whereas “the previous system deterred units that are no longer habitable from leaving the stock” (Tinsky 2004), the new system will encourage the gradual removal and replacement of derelict SRO units in the city. Tenant rights to notification and relocation assistance San Diego’s ordinance aims to mitigate the negative impacts on tenants who are displaced by losses to the SRO stock.  When a building owner submits an application for a conversion or demolition permit to the City, s/he must include a list of all tenants who have lived in the building within the past 6 months.  The building owner must also provide each tenant with a written notice of the relocation benefits to which they are entitled before submitting the application.  If the permit application is approved, the owner must give 90 days notification of termination of tenancy to all tenants who have resided in the building for 30 or more consecutive days (note: this provision was recently found to be out of compliance with state law; therefore the 2004 proposed revisions to the ordinance will change this to 60 days, which 33 is the maximum length of time for notification of termination of tenancy permitted by California law). While most cities’ SRO preservation policies require building owners to locate replacement housing for displaced tenants, San Diego’s ordinance specifies that the Housing Commission, not the building owner, will provide assistance in locating replacement housing to all tenants who have resided in the building for 30 or more consecutive days. The ordinance also provides for monetary compensation to “long-term” tenants – those who have resided in the building for 90 days or more.  These tenants are entitled to rent rebates of $10 per month for each month’s residency, up to a maximum of $210, in addition to a payment of one times (in the case of building rehabilitation) or two times (in the case of demolition) the tenant’s average monthly rent for the past 12 months.  Tenants who have resided in the building for 30 days or less are not eligible for relocation assistance or compensation.  The proposed changes to the ordinance will increase the amount of relocation assistance to displaced tenants. Implementation and enforcement: successes and challenges In the view of Housing Commission staff the ordinance has served its purpose well in that it has “deterred taking the [SRO] stock off line” (Tinsky 2004).  Since passage of the ordinance the City has never collected fees in lieu of replacing lost units, although in one case the City was given land in-lieu of replacement.  Over the past five years there have been an estimated 750 SRO units lost in San Diego: 300 due to a federal courthouse expansion that resulted in the demolition of three hotels (none of these units was replaced since the federal government is not required to comply with local regulations), a 400-unit hotel that was converted to a boutique hotel (this case went to litigation and the City eventually reached an agreement with the property owner under which extra tenant assistance was provided, but no replacement units), and a 23-unit building which was torn down to allow for a redevelopment (the new project included 24 units of affordable housing) (ibid).  The Housing Commission staff who administer the SRO regulations are not aware of any illegal conversions or demolitions.  The total number of SRO units in San Diego at present is estimated at between 3500 and 4500 units, a large proportion of which are newer (i.e. built in the 1980s and 1990s) and most of which are owned as private, for-profit enterprises (ibid).  Very few original SRO units from the turn of the century remain. 34 Incentives for SRO preservation In San Diego there are state subsidies in the form of tax credits that are available for physical improvements to SRO buildings in exchange for rent restrictions on the rehabilitated units.  The Housing Commission administers the allocation of these tax credits and directs them to specific buildings, but does not currently dedicate any municipal funding toward financial incentives for SRO preservation.  It is anticipated that some such funds may be made available in the future.  The City does not perceive a need for operational support programs for SRO owners/operators, since SRO landlords tend to have been in the business for a long time and are reasonably competent in their management capacities (ibid). New SRO development San Diego led the nation in the industry of new SRO development from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.  This movement had its beginnings in the formation of a task force, consisting of developers, homeless advocates, and officials from the City’s Housing Commission and fire and building departments, whose mandate was to develop a strategy for preserving San Diego’s existing SRO stock. Soon, however, the task force’s focus shifted to SRO construction.  Judith Lenthall, San Diego’s senior housing planner in the 1980s, states, “We realized that the issue was not preservation….the real issue was lack of supply” (Gallagher 1993, 21).  Thus, the task force turned its attention to ways to encourage new additions to San Diego’s supply of SRO housing. Specific actions taken by the City to create favorable conditions for SRO development included: • Sponsoring statewide legislation that created under the State’s uniform building code a new housing definition of a 150 square foot “living unit” • Re-classifying SROs in the zoning code from multifamily residential to commercial hotels, thereby relaxing some standards such as access requirements for the disabled • Revising sections of the fire code in order to substantially reduce construction costs, such as allowing sprinkler systems in SRO buildings in exchange for fewer fire exits, doors that can withstand fire for 20 minutes instead of 1 hour, and plastic pipes instead of cast iron • Eliminating parking requirements for SROs located downtown and allowing variances to minimum parking requirements for those in other city neighborhoods • Encouraging SRO development on commercial and industrial sites • Granting tax exemptions and reducing development cost charges for developers of SROs • Providing low-interest loans to developers in exchange for designating a certain portion of the living units for tenants who meet HUD definitions for income and restricted rent eligibility The Baltic Inn, completed in 1987, was the first SRO constructed in San Diego under the City’s new program as well as the first new SRO built in the United States in 50 years (Gallagher 1993).  The 35 building has 207 living units that are typically about 120 square feet in size.  Each room contains private amenities including a toilet, microwave oven and television, and the building’s common spaces and shared facilities include six showers per floor and a laundry room, television room, and vending machines on the main floor (ibid).  In this respect the Baltic Inn’s design represents an upgrading or reinterpretation of the historical SRO hotel.  Using the Baltic Inn as a model, developers constructed 17 additional new SRO buildings in San Diego between 1987 and 1993, of which half were financed through public-private partnerships and half solely by the private sector.  Another nine existing older SRO buildings were renovated and brought back into use as low-income housing. In the early 1990s new City policies were adopted that created obstacles to SRO development. Most significantly the City’s downtown redevelopment area was expanded and within it a new 260-acre downtown residential district was created.  This downtown district was designated as one of the City’s so- called “20/80 zones” (20% commercial use and 80% residential use), with the result that SROs (which, as noted above, were re-classified as a commercial use in the 1980s) are allowed in only 20% of the downtown residential area.  According to Susan Tinsky of the San Diego Housing Commission, “It is difficult to finance a project with 20% SROs.  Capital institutions are still warming up to the idea of mixed-use development, and they have a hard time at best in financing mixed- use with traditional commercial and residential.  But add a non-traditional commercial use like SROs and their heads really spin.  In addition, state revenues are allocated based on certain criteria and there is extreme competition to receive state funding sources for affordable housing. Commercial uses such as SROs are low on the list” (Tinsky 2004). Another action that imposed barriers to new SROs was the 1992 passage of a downtown parking ordinance requiring 0.2 underground parking spaces per SRO room (ibid).  As a result of these policies new SRO development in San Diego began to decline. Despite these challenges, some affordable residential projects that are geared to serve the traditional SRO tenant population have been built recently. One private development firm, Barone Galasso & Associates, completed a project in downtown San Diego in 2003 called Island Village that combines retail space and 280 small, self-contained, furnished studio apartments (280-290 square feet). The $21 million project was financed with state housing tax credits as well as an $11 million bond from 36 Freddie Mac.3  Ann Mabrey of Barone Galasso explains that private developers in San Diego recognize the unmet demand for small, low-cost rental units and are eager to fill this market niche, but that some obstacles and disincentives remain that need to be removed.  Developers of small studio suites are currently required to “pay the same fees as someone building a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment” (Mabrey 2004).  Some developers such as Michael Galasso of Barone Galasso & Associates are actively involved in “working to get the City to recognize SROs as a separate type of housing project” (ibid) and to support these projects with more favorable terms – specifically by advocating for reduced development cost charges.  Galasso also sits on the Affordable Housing Task Force, a group with varied membership (including City officials and private developers) that advises the City on ways to better support the production of new affordable housing. The San Diego Housing Commission currently provides financing as well as technical assistance to encourage new low-income housing production: “To help make it financially attractive for developers to create affordable rental units - either ‘acquisition-rehab’ or new construction - the Housing Commission offers permanent financing in the form of low-interest loans, tax-exempt bonds, and land-use incentives. It also provides technical assistance - such as help securing tax credits and providing predevelopment loans - for nonprofit developers” (San Diego Housing Commission 2004).  The Housing Commission administers federal (HUD) HOME funds and the municipal San Diego Housing Trust Fund. As mentioned previously, one of the primary objectives of the 2004 amendments to the SRO preservation ordinance is to integrate positive incentives for new SRO production into the regulatory framework.  Some of these incentives relate to where SROs may be built in the city; for example the Housing Commission is now trying to allow SROs in a broader range of zones, including permitting them as-of-right in certain high-density residential zones (Tinsky 2004).  Another proposed revision would reduce the downtown parking requirement (reversing the increase that was implemented in 1992). 3   Freddie Mac is “a stockholder-owned corporation chartered by Congress in 1970 to keep money flowing to mortgage lenders in support of homeownership and rental housing. Freddie Mac purchases single-family and multifamily residential mortgages and mortgage-related securities, which it finances primarily by issuing mortgage pass through securities and debt instruments in the capital markets” (Freddie Mac 2004).  The company offers a range of products and initiatives that are targeted for low- income rental housing. 37 Concluding remarks on SROs in San Diego San Diego’s SRO policies aim to strike a balance between preservation of existing stock and production of new stock.  The City’s preservation ordinance is designed to ensure the retention of the existing number of SRO units, but not necessarily the retention of the same stock; in effect San Diego is less focused than other cities on maintaining the original SRO stock.  The City is relatively lenient about permitting demolition and conversion of older SROs as long as ample assistance is provided to displaced SRO tenants (in which the City takes an active role) and the lost housing units are replaced (if required under the new minimum threshold provision).  Under this approach, the goals of regulating conversion and demolition and actively supporting new SRO development go hand in hand.  San Diego very successfully stimulated a surge of new SRO development in the late 1980s and early 1990s by working locally and with the state of California to revamp regulations, but over the next decade the movement of SRO production was slowed by gradual zoning and land use changes that once again made building SROs financially difficult. New York City Of the four cities in this case study, New York City’s SRO regulations are the longest as well as the most detailed and complex.  Regulations pertaining to SROs are found in four different sections of the City’s Administrative Code.  They were enacted not with one ordinance but with a series of related measures that were adopted over a period of about three years.  The original ordinance, which prohibited conversion, alteration, and demolition of SRO multiple dwellings, was adopted in 1985; additions related to the withdrawal of SRO units from the rental market, harassment of SRO tenants by landlords, and relocation of tenants were passed in 1986 and 1987.  However, the restrictions on conversion, alteration, and demolition were later ruled unconstitutional by the New York State Court of Appeal and have not been operative since 1989.  Thus, at the present time New York City’s SRO policies focus on two areas: preventing harassment of tenants by landlords and facilitating new development. New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the agency responsible for administering affordable housing programs, including those related to SROs.  Operating 38 under HPD’s Division of Code Enforcement, the SRO Compliance Unit is in charge of “preserving and improving the stock of privately owned SRO buildings and protecting the rights of individuals living in them” (NYC HPD 2003).  HPD uses the following definition of an SRO: “One or two rooms that lack complete kitchen and/or bathroom facilities or share them with other units” (ibid). Certification of No Harassment The Certification of No Harassment ordinance, which accounts for the bulk of SRO-related applications made to the city, was enacted in response to persistent problems with unfair treatment and harassment of SRO tenants by landlords.  Under this provision of the SRO regulations, the term ‘harassment’ is defined as force or threat of force, or interruption or discontinuation of essential services, in an attempt to get tenants to vacate their units or waive their rights related to occupancy of those units. The ordinance states specific examples of harassment, including moving a tenant’s possessions or changing the door lock on an SRO unit.  According to HPD staff, more serious “aggressive physical acts” and violent forms of harassment, such as chasing down tenants with baseball bats and intentionally destroying a building’s elevator by severing the cable and dropping it through its shaft, were not uncommon in New York City prior to the adoption of the ordinance (Shultz and Popkin 2004).  The statute has been “reasonably effective” in preventing abusive practices toward tenants by landlords, but it does not provide any recourse in terms of preventing SRO conversions (ibid). When seeking a building permit that involves adding or removing a bathroom or kitchen, the owner must first apply to HPD for a certificate affirming that there has been no harassment of the building’s occupants for the past 36 months.  The owner is required to prove that the building management has not been engaging in practices such as illegal evictions, intentional neglect of building maintenance, suspension of basic services, or acts of physical force.  HPD’s SRO Compliance Unit maintains records of complaints filed by tenants against building owners and conducts inspections of SROs in response to tenant complaints.  These records are used to determine whether to grant Certificates of No Harassment to SRO building owners (NYC HPD 2003).  In addition, HPD administers the following process for investigating and issuing these certificates: 39 • The building owner agrees to allow government agencies access to the premises. • HPD issues a notice in appropriate publication(s), to the owner, to each occupant, to the local community board, to appropriate government agencies, and by posting conspicuously on the premises; this notice identifies the building, explains ‘harassment’ in plain language, and invites current and former occupants of the building to submit their comments in writing or orally within 30 days. • At the end of the 30-day comment period, HPD can either grant the certification, grant a waiver of certification, deny the certification, or require a hearing (in the event that there is reasonable cause to believe that harassment has occurred) at which the owner as well as other interested parties are given the opportunity to speak. • Circumstances under which a waiver may be granted are generally related to cases in which the current owner did not own the building at the time the harassment occurred. SRO conversions and demolitions in New York City The situation with SRO conversions in New York City since the early 1990s is unique and very specific to local economic and social trends as well as to the physical housing stock.  Consequently the City’s current view on SRO conversions is significantly different from that of the 1980s, when the ordinance restricting conversions, alterations, and demolitions was in effect.  To begin with, there is a large trend in New York City of building owners converting apartments to SROs, which in many cases are illegal under zoning regulations.  HPD has no official estimate of the number of living units that have been recently converted to SRO, but the number is known to be “substantial” and the quantity of illegal SRO stock in New York City is considerably larger than the legal stock (Shultz and Popkin 2004). In addition, most of New York City’s older SROs are located in formerly poor areas of Manhattan that are now in high economic demand, and as a result the economic pressure is strong to convert SROs back to apartments.  A large proportion of the historical SRO stock is in “brownstones” – one- or two-family homes that were converted to single room dwelling units during hard economic times in the 1930s and 40s.  In recent years an increasing number of owners are converting these buildings back to one- or two-family homes.  This situation brings about conflicting policy objectives for HPD – although on one hand the City wants to maintain the availability of housing stock for very low-income tenants, they don’t necessarily feel that these converted brownstones should be preserved as SROs.  There are two main reasons for the latter view: first, this housing stock was not built nor intended to be SROs; and second, many converted brownstones are located in neighborhoods where homeownership rates are low, and the City wants to encourage homeownership and higher-income residents in order to create more balanced neighborhoods. 40 In summary, New York City views the historical conversion of apartments and brownstone buildings to SROs, and the more recent conversion and upgrading of SROs back to self-contained apartments and one- or two-family homes, as a fluid and organic process that occurs over the years in response to market forces and the economic realities of the times.  The City does not currently restrict conversions of SROs to apartments or other uses, with the exception of requiring building owners to obtain Certificates of No Harassment before altering kitchen or bath facilities; the “legal conversions” that are approved through this process are the only changes to the SRO stock for which the City maintains official numbers and records.  According to an organizer with the West Side SRO Law Project, a tenants’ advocacy group, as of 1998 “about 1,500 units per year [are] slated for legal conversion” through the Certificate of No Harassment application process (Brodhead 1998).  Conversions of apartments to SROs are prohibited by zoning ordinances but violations are commonplace.  Demolition of SRO units is not currently regulated, and the City is aware that “lots of buildings get demolished” (Shultz and Popkin 2004). The number of legal SRO units in New York City was last estimated in a study conducted in 1996 using data from 1993; at that time the number of units was approximately 50,000 (ibid).  The study also demonstrated that in 1996 the number of SRO units was declining, and HPD affirms that it has continued to decline overall since that time.  The number of illegal SRO units is currently believed to be much greater than 50,000 (ibid). The West Side SRO Law Project has been active in drawing attention to the prolific instances of illegal conversions of SROs to other uses (most often larger, self-contained apartments), i.e. conversions that are carried out without the issuance of Certificates of No Harassment: “Many SRO landlords don’t or can’t (because of a history of harassment) seek certificates before attempting to convert their building.  Instead, they falsify their work-permit application, or obtain a lower-level work permit that doesn’t require a certificate and then proceed to work beyond the scope of the permit” (Brodhead 1998). In the view of West Side SRO Law Project organizers, the City’s enforcement efforts with respect to these illegal conversions are highly ineffectual and negligent.  In 1998 a bill titled Intro 108 was introduced in the City Council that would have required the Department of Buildings to crack down on illegal SRO conversions, but the measure did not pass. 41 Incentives for SRO preservation New York City offers a variety of financial incentives for SRO building owners to improve and rehabilitate their properties.  HPD administers loans for the rehabilitation of residential buildings (including but not limited to SROs).  The 488-A tax benefit program was designed to provide owners of SRO buildings with tax abatement and exemptions for improving and rehabilitating their properties (New York City Mayor’s Office, 2003), but according to HPD staff these tax incentives are never used: “Nobody is upgrading private SROs.  Private owners are not willing to invest the money in those buildings, because there’s more money to be made elsewhere.  The economic reality is that you can put an incentive there, but it’s still not as high as the mortgage incentive” (Shultz and Popkin 2004).  Thus, HPD has found that the only successful strategy for preserving SROs is for the City to buy buildings and sell or donate them to non-profit organizations (the typical scenario is that the City makes interest-free loans to non-profit organizations for both purchase and rehabilitation costs for SRO buildings, but in practice the loan money never gets repaid so in effect the City is giving the buildings away) (ibid).  For this reason HPD changed the name of its former SRO loan program to the Supportive Housing Program. HPD staff also note that there have been attempts in the past to work with for-profit owners on providing supportive housing, but these were a “failure” and a “disaster” (ibid). In terms of City initiatives to provide support to landlords and managers, HPD offers a range of programs for residential owners but these are not targeted to owners of SROs.  Through the Owner Services Program, analysts work closely with owners to improve both the physical and financial health of their buildings.  This outreach program offers financial and management advice, referrals for loans and other resources, and counseling for residential building owners.  Counseling services are provided for a variety of issues including finances, management or tenant relations, either one-on-one or in small groups (NYC HPD 2003). A number of training courses to support residential owners and operations are offered through HPD’s Housing Education Program that are relevant to, although not exclusively for, SRO owners: • Fundamentals of Residential Management Series, which covers building management, finance, and tenant relations, and building systems 42 • Intermediate and Advanced Residential Property Management and Maintenance Series, which covers management techniques, maintenance of building and physical plants, property laws procedures, ethics, fair housing, and building finance • Specialized Education Courses on anti-abandonment, building maintenance for youth, small residential property owners, and owner compliance with lead laws • Short seminars on water and energy conservation, maintaining heat and hot water, and environmental health issues (ibid). Video conferencing technology is available for the Residential Property Management and Building Systems courses in order that those courses can be offered at locations across the city, closer to where owners and managers live and work.  Finally, once each month HPD brings its traveling event called “Owners’ Night: An Evening Dedicated to Helping New York City’s Property Owners” to a different borough in the city to introduce interested residential owners to HPD’s low interest loan programs, educational courses, and owner counseling (ibid). HPD Special Counsel Harold Shultz notes that the Owner Services and Housing Education Programs are “not focused on SRO owners because they tend not to be amenable” to such types of assistance….SRO owners are usually either “reluctant and going somewhere else, or they’re experienced and don’t need help with management” (Shultz and Popkin 2004).  The Owner Services and Housing Education programs are focused on smaller multi-family buildings, i.e. 0-20 units, rather than large SRO hotels; typical clients of these programs are “new immigrant owners, or others who recently purchased or inherited buildings and don’t know much about management” (ibid). When SRO owners participate in the programs, it is usually as an entrée into HPD’s loan programs. New SRO development As noted above, New York City’s HPD department is involved in facilitating the development of new legal SRO stock, most of which is carried out by non-profit organizations with city subsidy.  This new stock is devoted to special needs tenants, including persons with AIDS, the mentally ill, and general low-income tenants.  Newly constructed units are technically “mini-studio units” (ibid) with small kitchens rather than true SROs.   About 8,000 new units have been created in the last 10-12 years, following a model that evolved from the preservation of SRO buildings to be used as supportive housing. HPD currently has both programmatic guidelines and design guidelines for construction of new small units for special needs and low-income tenants. 43 According to HPD’s Harold Shultz, it is currently not feasible for private developers to build SROs in New York City.  The reason is that SROs are not consistent with density standards and other zoning regulations, and while the City allows non-profit organizations to receive a special waiver of these requirements, for-profit developers are not eligible for the waiver.  HPD is “starting to have a discussion about allowing for-profits [to receive the waiver], but it’s not an easy political matter to get it done. There’s still a perception that SROs are bad housing and shouldn’t be encouraged.  Even some city planners oppose SROs on the grounds that they result in excessive density and parking problems” (ibid). Concluding remarks on SROs in New York City New York City’s original ordinance regulating conversion, alteration, and demolition of SRO housing was one of the earliest in the U.S. and was the most stringent of the cities included in this case study in terms of definition of affected living units, requirements for replacement of lost units, and penalties for illegal conversions (key aspects of the now-defunct ordinance are summarized in the chart at the end of this chapter).  Unfortunately it fell prey to legal challenges and was repealed after only four years.  Since that time the City has developed a very hands-off and almost defeatist approach to regulation of SROs, preventing harassment and abuses of tenants by landlords but letting the market determine the fate of physical housing stock.  The situation with SROs is somewhat different in New York than in other cities, in that larger living units are currently being converted to SROs as well as SROs converted to other uses; however, the overall trend is that the total quantity of SRO stock is declining. The majority of the existing SRO units in New York City are illegal (i.e. in violation of density and zoning regulations), and the City does not often take action against illegal SRO conversions.  Although City staff view most of the incentive programs and owner support programs to be relatively ineffective with respect to SROs, the City actively supports non-profit organizations in acquiring and rehabilitating SRO buildings and constructing new small units for special needs tenants. Toronto The City of Toronto’s policies and initiatives aimed at protecting affordable rental housing and developing new SRO housing stock have arisen from comprehensive planning to address homelessness in 44 the city and the region.  In response to a severe and increasing homelessness problem in the 1990s, the City of Toronto adopted a plan titled “Taking Responsibility for Homelessness: An Action Plan for Toronto” in January 1999.  In April of that year a by-law was passed amending Toronto’s Official Plan by establishing three broad policies: to restrict demolition of rental housing and conversion of rental units to condominium; to discourage the conversion of rental units to equity cooperatives, and to encourage new rental housing production. Toronto’s policy on preservation of affordable housing therefore does not specifically single out and emphasize SROs in the same way that other North American cities have done, but rather it aims to protect the entire stock of rental housing.  The City does have some programs and incentives that are dedicated to supporting rooming house operations and tenants and rehabilitating rooming house stock. With respect to new production, development of SRO housing is one action that is recommended as part of the “affordable housing strategy” component of the homelessness action plan.  The City of Toronto has developed a set of related and complementary initiatives that seek to stimulate and encourage the development of new SRO housing. Background and context for affordable housing preservation in Toronto As of March 2004 municipal housing policies in Toronto were in a state of transition due to the 1998 amalgamation of one regional and six local municipalities into one large municipal jurisdiction that is now called the City of Toronto.  Some of the former individual municipalities previously had policies related to housing and some did not.  The aforementioned April 1999 by-law, commonly known as OPA2, was “an attempt, post-amalgamation, to harmonize the policies” (Dunphy 2004).  OPA2 was actually an interim measure, the specific effect of which was to enact amendments to the Official Plan of the former Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto until an Official Plan for the new amalgamated City could be passed.  The City of Toronto’s new Official Plan was adopted in November 2002 and its affordable housing policies are “the same in intent but different in application” from OPA2 (ibid). Policies on conversions & demolitions, replacement of units, and tenant relocation and assistance The City of Toronto’s current Official Plan states that residential buildings, including non-profit or equity cooperatives, containing six or more rental units cannot be converted to condominiums except 45 under one of the following circumstances: (1) the rental vacancy rate in the City of Toronto, as reported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), has been greater than or equal to 2.5% for the preceding two years, or (2) the rents for units in the building “exceed mid-range rents at the time of application” (City of Toronto 2002, 51).  In effect, the City aims to moderate the anti-conversion policy so that it applies only to affordable and moderately priced rental units and excludes luxury rental housing, and so that it does not apply when the rental vacancy rate reaches a certain threshold level.   The City has the authority to control demolition of rental housing only in those cases where planning approvals are required, i.e. the City does not currently have the power to stop such demolition when the proposed redevelopment is as-of-right (although a request has been made for the provincial government to grant this power to the City of Toronto).  According to Noreen Dunphy, a senior planner with the City’s Urban Development Services division, most of the permit applications for demolition of rental housing that are submitted to the City are related to redevelopment projects that involve rezonings for increased height and density.  The City’s policy is that demolition of rental housing is contrary to the public interest and should not be approved unless, as with the conversion policy, the rental vacancy rate in Toronto has been at or above 2.5% for the preceding two years.  Dunphy (2004) states that, since the adoption of this policy in late 2002, a number of landowners who are considering redevelopment projects that would remove existing rental housing are “waiting until 2005 to see if this condition holds true.”  In the meantime, however, the City will consider redevelopment applications involving the demolition of rental housing provided that the following conditions are met: • The new development must contain the “same number, size, and type of rental units” and these must be “maintained with rents similar to those in effect at the time the redevelopment application is made.” • Rents for these replacement units must be regulated for a minimum period of 10 years and may be “increased annually by not more than the Provincial Rent Increase Guideline or a similar guideline as Council may approve from time to time.” • A tenant relocation and assistance plan must be prepared that offers “provision of alternative accommodation for tenants at similar rents, right-of-first-refusal to occupy one of the replacement units and other assistance to lessen hardship” (City of Toronto 2002, 50). “Other assistance to lessen hardship” for tenants usually consists of monetary compensation equal to a couple of months’ worth of rent, as well as extra assistance for elderly or disabled tenants (Dunphy 2004). 46 The impact in practice of the regulations on demolition of rental housing is to discourage redevelopments that involve such demolitions, because a developer “would need to have a pretty good business case in order to be able to absorb all these costs” (ibid).  There have been, however, about five or six applications for redevelopments involving rental housing demolitions, and in these cases the City has completed negotiations with the applicants regarding replacement of rental units and tenant assistance. Because of the transitional and interim nature of the policies as described above, some of the agreements reached have been compromises rather than securing the full range of benefits as laid out in the Official Plan.  Even so, approximately 75-80% of the rental units (or a total of about 600 units) have been replaced under agreements between the City and applicants for redevelopment (ibid). Applicability to rooming houses and SROs 47  The culture of single room occupancy hotels did not develop to the same extent in Toronto as it did in Vancouver or in coastal U.S. cities, perhaps because of the lack of sea ports and timber, fisheries, and maritime trade industries and, consequently, a smaller transient labor force.   Toronto does not have a significant quantity of surviving SRO hotel stock, but there are a relatively large number of rooming units in older, converted single-family houses, particularly in areas such as Parkdale and The Annex (Spence 2004).  Within the City of Toronto there are currently 504 legal and licensed rooming houses (note: this number refers to buildings, not units), including 484 in the former Municipality of Toronto and 20 in the former City of Etobicoke (ibid).  Many illegal rooming units are also known to exist in the former municipalities of Scarborough and North York; a study commissioned by the City of Toronto is currently underway that is attempting to estimate the number of these illegal rooming units in the city using such sources as records of complaints and inspections, and newspaper ads for vacant rooming units. The applicability of Toronto’s rental housing conversion and demolition policies to SROs and rooming units is somewhat vague due to the fact that these are not complete and self-contained “living units.”  The old Ontario Rental Housing Protection Act, which was in effect from 1986- 1998, explicitly stated that rooms in rooming houses were covered by the Act, thereby providing equal protection for rooming units and other forms of rental housing.  The repeal of the Rental Housing Protection Act effectively removed municipalities’ abilities to control renovations that would reconfigure larger living units into single room units and to regulate residential rooms that are not self-contained (Spence 2004).  As a result, no explicit and formal definition of a living “unit” is provided in either current provincial legislation or the City of Toronto’s Official Plan housing policies.  Although the situation is somewhat unclear as to whether rooming units and SRO rooms are affected by the City’s rental housing preservation regulations, planning staff assert that if faced with a situation in which housing units of these types were at risk of conversion or demolition, the City would make every attempt to secure the same provisions related to replacement units and tenant assistance that are required for other forms of housing (ibid). Implementation and enforcement: successes and challenges 48 Two aspects of provincial authority have greatly affected Toronto’s affordable housing preservation policies and the status of their implementation: the changing face of the provincial government from the late 1980s through the present and the influence of the Ontario Municipal Board, an independent tribunal whose members are appointed by the provincial government.  During the late 80s and early 90s Ontario had two consecutive progressive administrations that passed a number of proactive housing policies (including the aforementioned Rental Housing Protection Act).  Within this supportive environment many municipalities were able to enact innovative and progressive policies related to affordable housing, and this legacy continues to shape the housing agendas of several cities, including Toronto.  From 1995 onward, however, conservative provincial administrations have attempted to reverse many of the policies that advanced the cause of social and affordable housing.  As a result, the provincial framework under which municipalities must carry out their housing agendas has weakened.  Toronto’s present climate for affordable housing is somewhat vulnerable to the forces of the free market and the current pressures for redevelopment and conversions of low-cost rental housing are intense. The City of Toronto has faced some legal challenges to its policies on conversion and demolition of rental housing – in 1999 several property owners and developers appealed OPA2 to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on the allegation that a municipal government did not have the legal jurisdiction to control conversion and demolition of rental housing.  The OMB decided in favor of the landowners and developers, but the City appealed the decision in court and the case eventually went to the Ontario Court of Appeal.  In October 2003 this court ruled in favor of the City, upholding the validity and legality of OPA2 (Bruser 2003), but as of March 2004 the City is still working to get the OMB’s approval on the merits of the rental housing policies contained in its new Official Plan and to gain broader provincial support for these policies. On a similar note, in 2003 the owner of a 500-unit rental building applied to the City of Toronto for a permit to convert to condominium, which the City denied.  The applicant appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, which decided on the side of the property owner.  The City is currently fighting the OMB’s decision, recognizing that it would set a very bad precedent that could adversely affect future efforts to enforce the anti-conversion policy (Dunphy 2004). 49  These legal struggles support the claim by City of Toronto planner Noreen Dunphy that “The provincial legislative framework under which municipalities wrestle with [affordable housing preservation] issues accounts for at least 80-90% of the effectiveness of local policies” (Dunphy 2004).  A critical step that city planners must take in crafting policies of this nature is to ensure that what they are trying to accomplish is workable within the framework of provincial laws and conventions (ibid). Monitoring and evaluation The City of Toronto produces an annual “Report Card on Homelessness” to evaluate progress in implementing its homelessness action plan.  While it does not evaluate the effectiveness of rental housing conversion and demolition policies directly, one of the report card’s functions is to monitor activity in the affordable housing market and track loss or potential loss of affordable housing (CHRA 2002). Incentives for SRO/rooming house preservation The City of Toronto administers direct funding from two federal programs, the Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI), which is part of the National Homelessness Initiative and provides funds for a variety of programs including transitional and supportive housing; and the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP), which provides funds for housing preservation and upgrade projects.  CMHC provides dedicated RRAP funds for rooming houses that are “intended as permanent accommodation for the occupants….[and for which] rental rates for the bed units are at or below established levels for the market area” (CMHC 2004), as well as for housing for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities.   The City also administers some provincial funds provided by the Homelessness Initiative Fund (Spence 2004). Municipal contributions to supporting and improving rooming houses include: • Research and advocacy to senior governments on rooming house issues • Sponsorship of a Rooming House Working Group, which operates under the Community and Neighbourhood Services area of the City’s Shelter, Housing & Support Division • The Parkdale Pilot Project, which aims to allow legalization of rooming house units under acceptable health and safety standards • Funding for the Tenant Defense Fund, which is developing an “Eviction Prevention Pilot Project” to provide resources and assistance for tenants who are at risk of being unfairly evicted New SRO development 50 One of the recommendations in the Affordable Housing chapter of Toronto’s homelessness action plan states that “the City of Toronto should pursue the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) option for housing with supports to house homeless singles” (City of Toronto 1999a, 160).  Specific actions that are recommended include: • Zoning and regulatory changes (density maximums, unit sizes, parking requirements, and building and fire code regulations), through cooperation between the City and the Province, to enable construction of new SROs • Initiation of three SRO pilot projects that vary according to location, number and sizes of units, financing, and management techniques (ibid). Toronto’s definition of SRO, for the purpose of new development, is “permanent rental housing specifically created for single, low-income people [that] range from private rooms with shared kitchen and/or bathroom facilities to private self-contained rooms with shared amenities, range in size from 150 to 400 square feet, rent from $275 to $400 per month, and may or may not have on-site support services” (City of Toronto 1999c). Toronto’s view of the municipal role in the creation of new affordable housing is that of a catalyst – the City should use its available resources to leverage further resources from senior levels of government.  Toronto’s strategy, therefore, has been to design and enact an appropriate policy context for new SRO development, identify municipal incentives that can be offered to stimulate investment in SROs, and work with the provincial and federal governments to make necessary amendments to building regulations and taxation structures and secure additional funding.  As a first step in creating a favorable environment for new SRO development by both private market and non-profit groups, the City committed to making specific municipal land sites and financial incentives from its Capital Revolving Fund available for SRO construction.  Provincial barriers were identified that needed to be removed in order to support SRO development, most significantly minimum parking requirements, minimum unit size requirements, and the high tax rate assessed on multi-residential class developments.  The City successfully worked with the provincial government to amend the Ontario Building Code, reducing the minimum living unit size from 275 to 175 square feet, including a kitchen and bathroom.  Toronto then developed a new zoning model for SROs that set standards for location, parking, unit size, and culinary and sanitary facilities.  Finally, the City adopted a new tax class for multi-family rental housing, making the tax rate 51 the same as for single-family housing.  Provincial law originally set an eight year limit on this tax class, but the City convinced the provincial government to extend the multi-residential assessment class to 35 years, thereby advancing one of Toronto’s significant affordable housing goals. In early 1999 the City conducted an SRO design study that involved a review of new SRO development projects across North America, discussion of SRO design issues with local experts, consultation with potential residents to determine their needs and perspectives, and a one-day design charrette to generate ideas and concepts for new SRO models (City of Toronto, 1999c).  This was followed in 2000 by an open competition for pilot projects based on three SRO prototypes: market, assisted, and supportive.  Generally the three prototypes have the following characteristics: • Market units: Provide housing for low-income working individuals.  They usually do not have on- site support services but the management may facilitate resident access to community-based service providers (also known as “de-linked” services).  Rents are in the range of $425-$600 per month. Market SRO projects tend to be relatively large (e.g. 80-100 units). • Assisted units: Provide subsidized rents, usually in the range of $325-$425 per month.  They do not usually include on-site support services, but may have “de-linked” services.  Assisted SRO developments tend to be smaller (e.g. 40-70 units) • Supportive units: House one or more of these populations: low-income, formerly homeless, and special needs tenants.  On-site support services are provided either directly by the housing facility or by community-based providers.  Rents are typically about $325 per month, or 30% of the tenant’s monthly income, whichever is greater.  Like assisted SROs, supportive SRO facilities work best when they are smaller (40-70 units) (ibid). Unfortunately no information was available about the current status or outcomes of these pilot projects. In the spring of 2000 the City of Toronto launched the Let’s Build program, “an action-oriented program established…to facilitate the production of new affordable housing.  It offers the services of a skilled team of development and housing professionals to assist in the planning and development process and a tool kit of incentives to increase the economic viability of affordable housing projects” (City of Toronto 2003, 1).  Through Let’s Build, the city works closely with private and non-profit sector developers to craft sets of financial incentives that are individualized to each project.  Incentives including “exemption from municipal property taxes, full or partial exemption from development charges, grants and loans from the City’s Capital Revolving Fund (CRF) at favourable rates, and City-owned land…can be used to create a package that responds to specific project requirements, with the overall objective of creating an economically feasible development” (ibid).  Height and density bonuses have also 52 been used indirectly for new affordable housing – although developers have rarely provided on-site affordable housing in exchange for increased height and density, the City has secured cash contributions to the Capital Revolving Fund through height and density bonus agreements, which are then transferred to the Let’s Build program and applied to affordable housing projects (Zimmerman 2004).    Investigation into the effectiveness of the City’s implementation of initiatives to encourage SRO development yields conflicting information.  According to Peter Zimmerman, a housing development specialist with the City of Toronto, a few SRO projects have been completed or initiated by non-profit developers under the Let’s Build program.  But in Zimmerman’s perception the fact that SROs specifically (as distinct from other types of affordable housing) have been pursued is due to the choice and motivation of certain community-based housing organizations, rather than a systematic effort on the City’s part: “Some of our projects have happened to be SROs because of the client group to be served… but not through a concerted effort [on the City’s part] to facilitate SRO development” (ibid).  However, it is clear that the City’s earlier work in devising an appropriate regulatory and financial context for SRO development has positively influenced the ability of non-profit housing developers to get SRO projects completed on the ground.   Thus, although the Let’s Build program may not have actively promoted or advocated the SRO concept in the past, non-profit developers have recently approached the City wanting to build SROs and have found a supportive regulatory environment for achieving this goal. One Let’s Build project that is currently underway represents a more direct effort to promote new SRO production.  The program has initiated a design competition for a purpose-built SRO project with approximately 150-200 suites, to be developed on a City-owned site.  Staff are currently preparing a design brief to be completed in the summer of 2004 that will lay out the functional parameters for the project, including design guidelines and background information on operations, intended tenant groups, etc.  The design competition process will culminate at the end of 2004 (ibid). Although staff are aware that, in order for SROs to be a viable form of housing, “both sides of the equation” (Zimmerman 2004) – capital and operational – need to be addressed, the City has not ventured into the realm of providing operational support programs for SRO owners/operators.  The primary reason 53 for this is that no significant assistance for operational expenses for low-income housing is available from senior levels of government (ibid). Concluding remarks on SROs in Toronto SRO hotels were not developed in Toronto during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the same extent as in the other cities in this case study.  Preservation policies for affordable housing in Toronto are focused on protecting the entire stock of low- and moderate-cost rental housing, but the level of protection they provide to the city’s rooming house stock is somewhat unclear.  Since 1999 the City has engaged in active planning to facilitate development of new SROs and has made significant progress in creating a favorable regulatory environment at both the city and provincial levels.  A few new SRO projects have been completed since 2000 through the City’s Let’s Build program, and an SRO design competition is currently underway for a City-owned land site. Summary and Conclusion The chart on pages 54-57 (Figure 3) briefly summarizes key aspects of SRO preservation and development policies in the four case study cities. Regulations and policies on conversion and demolition of SROs (or, in Toronto’s case, of affordable rental housing in general) in the San Francisco, San Diego, and Toronto bear many fundamental similarities in terms of requirements for replacing lost units and assisting and relocating displaced tenants.  Although related provisions of the policies and details of how they are administered vary from one city to the next, there is a general common intent that underlies the policies in these cities.  Where these municipalities begin to diverge is in the level of effort invested in enforcement of the regulations, the presence or absence of supplementary programs to improve physical building conditions and assist owners and tenants in order to increase the viability of the regulations, and the emphasis placed on the goal of gradual replacement of aging stock with newer replacement housing for low-income individuals. It can be asserted without question that each of the cities has secured a level of public benefit by ensuring the continuation of basic low-cost housing that provides an alternative to shelters or street life for persons with very low incomes.  But the continuation of old and decaying housing stock for a tenant 54 population that tends be problematic also poses undeniable challenges for a community.  The cities in the case study have addressed this situation in different ways: Toronto and New York City have broken new ground by piloting programs to support tenants and building owners, while San Diego and Toronto have taken significant steps to make it possible for the private and/or non-profit sectors to participate in production of new SROs.  The examples from these cities provide rich lessons and inspiration for other municipalities that wish to optimize the benefits provided by existing SRO stock and capitalize on the opportunity for new low-income housing innovations. 55 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY S pe ci fic  is su es  re la te d to  S R O s Im po rta nc e of  to ur is m  in du st ry  a nd  s up pl y of  to ur is t h ot el s to  c ity ’s  e co no m y.   O rd in an ce  d is tin gu is he s be tw ee n to ur is t s ea so n (M ay –S ep t)  a nd  n on -t ou ris t s ea so n (O ct -A pr ) in  r el at io n to  r eg ul at in g S R O  u se  in  o rd er  to  co nt in ue  to  a llo w  S R O  o w ne rs  to  re nt  u ni ts  to  to ur is ts  d ur in g su m m er  m on th s. O ng oi ng  p ro bl em s (a s of  2 00 0s ) –  il le ga l e vi ct io ns  o f t en an ts , v er y po or  a nd  s ub st an da rd  li vi ng  c on di tio ns , h ea lth  a nd  s af et y vi ol at io ns , f ire  h az ar ds  a nd  lo ss  o f S R O  u ni ts  to  fi re . M aj or  re vi si on s to  S R O  p re se rv at io n or di na nc e cu rr en tly  u nd er w ay  –  p ro po se d ch an ge s w ill  m or e cl ea rly  id en tif y w hi ch  b ui ld in gs  a re  s ub je ct  to  r eg ul at io ns , i nc re as e as si st an ce  fo r di sp la ce d te na nt s,  e st ab lis h a ci ty w id e S R O  in ve nt or y th re sh ol d be lo w  w hi ch  th e re qu ire m en ts  fo r re pl ac in g un its  d o no t a pp ly , a nd  c re at e in ce nt iv es  fo r ne w  S R O  d ev el op m en t. C ity  h as  s pe ci al  re gu la tio ns  fo r S R O s,  in cl ud in g:  o ne  to ile t, w as hb as in , b at h/ sh ow er  fo r ev er y 6 un its ; e ac h ro om  m ax  o cc up an cy  2  a du lts ; n o te na nt s un de r 16  y ea rs  o f a ge ; b ui ld in g m an ag er s m us t r es id e in  b ui ld in g. R eg ul at io ns  a pp ly  to  c on ve rs io n/ de m ol iti on  o f A LL  a ffo rd ab le  to  m od er at el y pr ic ed  re nt al  h ou si ng , n ot  ju st  S R O s Le ss  o ld  S R O  h ot el  s to ck  th an  o th er  c iti es , b ut  lo ts  o f c on ve rte d ro om in g un its  in  o ld er  s in gl e- fa m ily  h om es . 56 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY V er y st ro ng  e m ph as is  o n ne w  S R O  d ev el op m en t.  G oa ls  o f r es er va tio n of  o ld er  S R O  s to ck  a nd  p ro du ct io n of  n ew  S R O  h ou si ng  a re  in te gr al ly  re la te d. W id es pr ea d pr ob le m s w ith  la nd lo rd s ha ra ss in g te na nt s an d vi ol at in g th ei r r ig ht s – C ity  a dd ed  “C er tif ic at io n of  N o H ar as sm en t”  re qu ire m en t t o S R O  o rd in an ce  in  1 98 6. La rg e po pu la tio n of  P er so ns  w ith  A ID S  (P W A s)  h ou se d in  S R O s - C ity  c on tra ct s w ith  b ld g ow ne rs  to  p ro vi de  h ou si ng  P ol ic ie s on  re nt al  h ou si ng  p re se rv at io n an d ne w  S R O  d ev el op m en t a re  a n in te gr al  c om po ne nt  o f t he  C ity ’s  h om el es sn es s st ra te gy . 57 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY O th er  a ct io ns /r es ol ut io ns  re la te d to  S R O s M or at or iu m  o n de m ol iti on  a nd  c on ve rs io n of  re si de nt ia l h ot el  u ni ts  a s of  N ov em be r 21 , 1 97 9. O rd in an ce  p ro te ct in g re si de nt ia l h ot el  te na nt s fro m  il le ga l e ar ly  e vi ct io ns  p as se d in  2 00 3. Te m po ra ry  m or at or iu m  o n S R O  d em ol iti on  a nd  c on ve rs io n – la te  1 98 5/ ea rly  1 98 6. N ew  S R O  d ev el op m en t –  1 8 ne w  h ot el s co ns tru ct ed  a nd  9  e xi st in g ho te ls  r en ov at ed  b et w ee n 19 87  –  1 99 4. A tte m pt ed  to  p as s an  e m er ge nc y or di na nc e in  2 00 2 to  s to p de m ol iti on s,  b ut  d id  n ot  p as s. M or at or iu m  o n co nv er si on , a lte ra tio n,  o r d em ol iti on  o f S R O s as  o f A ug us t 1 98 5. In tro  1 08  (p ro po se d,  1 99 8)  –  w ou ld  re qu ire  D ep t o f B ld gs  to  c ra ck  d ow n on  il le ga l S R O  c on ve rs io ns . D id  n ot  p as s. C ity ’s  H om el es sn es s A ct io n P la n pa ss ed  J an ua ry  1 99 9 C on du ct ed  a n S R O  D es ig n S tu dy  (e ar ly  1 99 9) Le t’s  B ui ld  p ro gr am  e st ab lis he d ea rly  2 00 0 to  fa ci lit at e pr od uc tio n of  n ew  a ffo rd ab le  h ou si ng . O nt ar io  C ou rt of  A pp ea l u ph el d th e an ti- co nv er si on /d em ol iti on  b y- la w  (i t w as  c ha lle ng ed  b y pr op er ty  o w ne rs /d ev el op er s)  –  O ct ob er  1 4,  2 00 3 58 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY N am e/ da te  o f S R O  p re se rv at io n by -la w  o r or di na nc e R es id en tia l H ot el  U ni t C on ve rs io n an d D em ol iti on  O rd in an ce  (1 98 1) S R O  H ot el  P re se rv at io n O rd in an ce ,1 98 7 C ur re nt : S an  D ie go  M un ic ip al  C od e 14 3. 05 N ew  Y or k C ity  A dm in is tra tiv e C od e: O rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce : 2 7- 19 8. 2 “C on ve rs io n/ al te ra tio n/  d em ol iti on  o f S R O  m ul tip le  d w el lin g un its  p ro hi bi te d”  ( 19 85 ) – ru le d un co ns tit ut io na l a nd  re pe al ed  in  1 98 9. C er tif ic at io n of  N o H ar as sm en t: 27 -2 09 3 (1 98 6) R el oc at io n of  te na nt s:  2 7- 19 8. 3 (1 98 7) B y- la w  N o.  1 47 -1 99 9.   “ T o ad op t o ffi ci al  p la n am en dm en ts  r eg ar di ng  th e co nv er si on  to  c on do m in iu m  a nd  d em ol iti on  o f r en ta l h ou si ng .”   A pr il 15 , 1 99 9.  C om m on  n am e:  O P A 2 59 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY W ith dr aw al  o f S R O  u ni ts  fr om  re nt al  m ar ke t p ro hi bi te d:   2 7- 21 50  –  2 15 2 (1 98 7) C ur re nt  h ou si ng  p ol ic ie s co nt ai ne d in  C ity  o f T or on to O ffi ci al  P la n,  a do pt ed  N ov em be r 20 02 . Sa n Fr an ci sc o Sa n D ie go N ew  Y or k C ity To ro nt o D em ol iti on  p ol ic ie s O nl y al lo w ed  w he n or de re d by  D ire ct or  o f P ub lic  W or ks  o r S ta te  S up er io r C ou rt,  o r w he n ne ce ss ita te d by  fi re , n at ur al  c au se s,  e tc . w he n co st  o f r ep ai r e xc ee ds  5 0%  o f b ld g’ s re pl ac em en t v al ue . D em ol iti on s m ay  b e ap pr ov ed  a s lo ng  a s re qu ire m en ts  fo r re pl ac em en t a nd  te na nt  re lo ca tio n ar e m et . O rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce : I f a  b ui ld in g is  fo un d to  b e un sa fe  a nd  th er e is  n o al te rn at iv e to  d em ol iti on , t he  r eg ul at io ns  d o no t a pp ly . D em ol iti on  o f r en ta l h ou si ng  a llo w ed  o nl y w he n C hi ef  B ui ld in g O ffi ci al  d et er m in es  b ui ld in g to  b e st ru ct ur al ly  u ns ou nd . 60 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY R ep la ce m en t a nd  te na nt  r ig ht s pr ov is io ns  s til l a pp ly . D em ol iti on s al lo w ed  u nd er  r eg ul at io ns  –  c as es  in vo lv in g ho us in g m ai nt en an ce  c od e vi ol at io ns  o r ne gl ec t o n ow ne r’s  p ar t, he /s he  is  st ill  r es po ns ib le  fo r th e re pl ac em en t a nd  te na nt  r el oc at io n re qu ire m en ts . If ow ne r ha s no t n eg le ct ed  p ro pe rty  o r vi ol at ed  m ai nt en an ce  c od e,  th en  h e/ sh e ca n ap pl y fo r re du ct io n in  re qu ire m en ts . ( N o lo ng er  a pp lic ab le ) C ity  to  c on si de r ac qu iri ng  o r le as in g a pr op er ty  w he n re nt al  u ni ts  ar e at  r is k of  b ei ng  d em ol is he d. S R O  re pl ac em en t p ol ic ie s an d m et ho ds /o pt io ns O ne -fo r- on e re pl ac em en t o f u ni ts  re qu ire d;  c on ve rs io n pe rm it ap pl ic at io ns  m us t b e ap pr ov ed  “a s of  r ig ht ” as  lo ng  a s th is  c on di tio n is  s at is fie d.  R ep la ce m en t m et ho ds : ( 1)  c on st ru ct  c om pa ra bl e un its  o r ( 2)  b rin g ex is tin g no n- S R O  u ni ts  b ac k on to  m ar ke t; (3 ) pa y 80 %  o f c on st ru ct io n co st s pl us  s ite  a cq ui si tio n;  (4 )  c on st ru ct  u ni ts  fo r el de rly , d is ab le d,  e m er ge nc y/ tra ns iti on al  h ou si ng  (l es s th an  1 :1  ra tio  re qu ire d in  o rd er  to  e nc ou ra ge  th es e sp ec ia l n ee ds  h ou si ng  ty pe s) O ne -f or -o ne  re pl ac em en t r eq ui re d th ro ug h on e of  th e fo llo w in g:  (1 ) co ns tru ct io n of  n ew  S R O  h ot el  ro om s;  (2 ) re ha bi lit at io n/  c on ve rs io n of  h ot el  ro om s th at  h av e be en  c on tin uo us ly  v ac an t f or  m or e th an  1  y ea r;  (3 ) co nv er si on  o f n on -r es id en tia l s tru ct ur es  to  S R O  h ot el  ro om s;  (4 ) m on et ar y co nt rib ut io n to  S R O  H ot el  R ep la ce m en t F un d in  th e am ou nt  o f 5 0%  o f r ep la ce m en t c os t O rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce : P ay  $ 45 ,0 00  p er  u ni t ( or  o th er  a m ou nt  fo un d to  b e eq ua l t o co st  o f c re at in g re pl ac em en t u ni t)  in to  S R O  H ou si ng  D ev el op m en t F un d C om pa ny , o r re pl ac e lo st  u ni ts  th ro ug h ne w  c on st ru ct io n or  a cq ui si tio n/  r eh ab ili ta tio n.   I n th is  c as e,  n ew  o r r eh ab ili ta te d bu ild in g m us t b e so ld  o r le as ed  to  a  n on -p ro fit  o rg an iz at io n.   ( N o lo ng er  a pp lic ab le ) R ep la ce m en t r eq ui re m en ts  o nl y ap pl y to  r ed ev el op m en t a pp lic at io ns  in vo lv in g de m ol iti on  o f r en te d re si de nt ia l u ni ts  in  w hi ch  p la nn in g ap pr ov al s ar e re qu ire d (i. e. , r ez on in gs  fo r in cr ea se d he ig ht  a nd /o r de ns ity ).   I n su ch  c as es , C ity  re qu ire s re pl ac em en t o f d em ol is he d re nt al  w ith  re nt al  u ni ts  of  a  s im ila r nu m be r,  ty pe , s iz e,  a nd  le ve l o f af fo rd ab ili ty  in   t he  n ew  d ev el op m en t, an d/ or  a lte rn at iv e ar ra ng em en ts  a pp ro ve d by  C ou nc il. 61 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY R ep la ce m en t u ni ts  m us t b e in  s am e co m m un ity  p la n ar ea  a s on es  lo st , a nd  m us t b e m ad e av ai la bl e to  v er y lo w  in co m e ho us eh ol ds  a t co rr es po nd in g re nt s (a cc or di ng  to  H U D  d ef in iti on s fo r S an  D ie go ). D es ig na tio n of  S R O  u ni ts O rig in al ly  b as ed  o n oc cu pa nc y as  o f S ep te m be r 23 , 1 97 9 (to ur is t or  p er m an en t r es id en t). D ef in iti on s:  (f ro m  S an  D ie go  L an d D ev el op m en t C od e) : H P D  ( un of fic ia l) de fin iti on : O ne  o r t w o ro om s th at  la ck  c om pl et e ki tc he n an d/ or  b at hr oo m  fa ci lit ie s or  s ha re  th em  w ith  o th er  u ni ts . R es tri ct io ns  o n co nv er si on  a nd  d em ol iti on  n ot  li m ite d to  S R O s.  T he y ap pl y to  a ny  b ui ld in g/  re la te d gr ou p of  b ui ld in gs , i nc lu di ng  no n- pr of it co -o pe ra tiv e an d/ or  e qu ity  c o- op er at iv e,  c on ta in in g si x or  m or e re nt ed  r es id en tia l u ni ts . 62 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY C ur re nt ly  “r es id en tia l u se ” is  d ef in ed  a s oc cu pa nc y fo r se ve n co ns ec ut iv e da ys . S R O  H ot el  R oo m  –  a  g ue st  r oo m  in  a n S R O  h ot el  th at  is  7 0 – 22 0 sq ua re  fe et , a nd  m ay  h av e pr iv at e or  s ha re d sa ni ta ry  fa ci lit ie s bu t d oe s no t c on ta in  a  k itc he n. S R O  H ot el  –  h ot el  o f w hi ch  a t l ea st  2 0%  o f g ue st  r oo m s ar e S R O  h ot el  ro om s In  o rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce  (f or  p ur po se s of  r es tri ct in g S R O  c on ve rs io ns , a lte ra tio ns  a nd  d em ol iti on s) :: T ho ro ug hl y en um er at ed  li st  e st ab lis he s w ha t p ro pe rti es  a re  a nd  a re  n ot  s ub je ct  to  re gu la tio ns . C le ar  d is tin ct io n be tw ee n de si gn at ed  S R O s an d ho te ls  (a cc or di ng  to  re nt  c ha rg ed  a nd  le ng th  o f o cc up an cy ).   O th er  s pe ci fic  e xc lu si on s lis te d (e .g . w oo d fra m e,  le ss  th an  2 4 un its , o w ne r- oc cu pi ed , e tc ) – (N o lo ng er  a pp lic ab le ) S R O  d ef in iti on  fo r pu rp os es  o f n ew  d ev el op m en t:  -- 15 0- 40 0 sq ua re  fe et  -- re nt  $ 27 5- $4 00  p er  m on th --  r an ge  b et w ee n pr iv at e ro om  w ith  s ha re d ki tc he n an d/ or  b at h to  p riv at e se lf- co nt ai ne d ro om s w ith  o th er  s ha re d am en iti es 63 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY -- m ay  o r m ay  n ot  h av e on -s ite  s up po rt  s er vi ce s Sa n Fr an ci sc o Sa n D ie go N ew  Y or k C ity To ro nt o P en al tie s an d fin es P en al tie s fo r fa ili ng  to  m ai nt ai n da ily  lo gs , p ro vi de  a nd  m ai nt ai n re nt al  r ec ei pt s,  p os t m at er ia ls  a s re qu ire d,  fa ls ify in g in fo rm at io n in  d ai ly  lo gs , e tc : 1s t  o cc ur re nc e – in fra ct io n,  fi ne  $ 10 0 - $5 00 N ot  s pe ci fie d O rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce : F in e of  $ 15 0, 00 0 pe r u ni t f or  il le ga l c on ve rs io ns , a lte ra tio ns  o r de m ol iti on s.   F in e of  $5 0, 00 0 pe r un it fo r ow ne r’s  fa ls e re pr es en ta tio n of  in te nt  to  o cc up y pr em is es . ( N o lo ng er  a pp lic ab le ) N ot  s pe ci fie d 64 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY 2n d  o cc ur re nc e – m is de m ea no r,  fi ne  $ 50 0 - $1 00 0 fa ls e in fo rm at io n – m is de m ea no r P en al tie s fo r un la w fu l c on ve rs io ns : 3 tim es  th e da ily  r at e ch ar ge d fo r ea ch  u nl aw fu lly  c on ve rte d un it,  p lu s en fo rc em en t c os ts 65 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY O th er  re qu ir em en ts /p ro vi si on s of  S R O  p re se rv at io n po lic y E xt en si ve  r ec or d- ke ep in g re qu ire d by  S R O  h ot el  o pe ra to rs  ( da ily  lo g,  w ee kl y re po rt,  a nn ua l u sa ge  r ep or t).  Te m po ra ry  C ha ng e of  O cc up an cy  p ro vi si on s:  to ur is t à  re si de nt ia l O K  a ny tim e.   r es id en tia l à  to ur is t O K  b et w ee n M ay  1  –  S ep t 3 0 as  lo ng  a s le ga lly  v ac an t; m us t b e re nt ed  to  pe rm an en t r es id en t i m m ed ia te ly  if  o ne  a pp lie s fo r te na nc y;  c an  a pp ly  to  n o m or e th an  2 5%  o f b ld g’ s re si de nt ia l u ni ts  a t a  ti m e E xe m pt io ns  to  re gu la tio ns  fo r co nv er si on s/ de m ol iti on s to  a llo w  fo r ot he r ty pe s of  v er y lo w  in co m e ho us in g pr oj ec ts . B ef or e pe rm it is su ed  fo r co nv er si on , a lte ra tio n or  d em ol iti on , o w ne r m us t a cq ui re  a  C er tif ic at io n of  N o H ar as sm en t f ro m  H P D , s ta tin g th at  o w ne r/m an ag em en t h as  n ot  b ee n us in g or  th re at en in g fo rc e or  in te rr up tin g/  d is co nt in ui ng  e ss en tia l s er vi ce s in  o rd er  to  fo rc e te na nt s to  v ac at e pr em is es . R es tri ct io ns  a pp ly  to  th re e ty pe s of  c on ve rs io ns : -- re nt al  to  e qu ity  c oo pe ra tiv e -- re nt al  to  c on do m in iu m -- eq ui ty  c oo pe ra tiv e to  c on do m in iu m E xc ep tio ns  to  re st ric tio ns  o n co nv er si on s:  66 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY C ity  C ou nc il ca n m ak e ex em pt io ns  fo r im pl em en ta tio n of  a  r ed ev el op m en t p ro je ct  if  it  w ill  h av e pu bl ic  b en ef its  th at  a re  g re at er  th an  th e ne ga tiv e im pa ct s of  th e lo ss  o f t he  S R O  u ni ts . N o pe rm it to  c on ve rt/ de m ol is h/ re ha bi lit at e ca n be  is su ed  if  th er e ha s be en  a n ill eg al  e vi ct io n of  a  r es id en t o f t he  b ui ld in g in  th e pa st  1 80  d ay s. A ll S R O  u ni ts  m us t b e m ai nt ai ne d in  h ab ita bl e co nd iti on  a nd  k ep t a ct iv el y on  th e re nt al  m ar ke t ( i.e . n ot  le ft va ca nt ).  (1 ) If th e va ca nc y ra te  in  th e C ity  fo r re nt al  a pa rtm en ts  h as  b ee n at  o r a bo ve  2 .5  p er  c en t f or  th e pr ec ed in g tw o ye ar s. (2 ) Fo r un its  th at  e xc ee d m id -r an ge  re nt  le ve ls  ( as  d et er m in ed  b y C ity  C ou nc il) 67 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY Te na nt  ri gh ts  (n ot ifi ca tio n,  re lo ca tio n as si st an ce , e tc ) Fo r co nv er si on s:  P er m an en t r es id en ts  m us t b e no tif ie d of  in te nt  to  c on ve rt  7  d ay s be fo re  a pp lic at io n;  m us t b e no tif ie d of  a ll he ar in gs /d ec is io ns . B ui ld in g ow ne r m us t of fe r th em  u ni ts  in  s am e bu ild in g or  in  r ep la ce m en t b ui ld in g (if  a ny ) Fo r bo th  d em ol iti on s an d co nv er si on s: P er m an en t r es id en ts  m ay  re m ai n in  u ni t f or  6 0 da ys  a fte r pe rm it is  is su ed . T he y ar e en tit le d to  r el oc at io n as si st an ce  a nd  re im bu rs em en t o f m ov in g co st s. B ld g ow ne r m us t p ro vi de  e ac h te na nt  w ith  w rit te n no tic e of  re lo ca tio n be ne fit s be fo re  s ub m itt in g pe rm it ap pl ic at io n. O rig in al  S R O  o rd in an ce : O w ne r m us t p os t n ot ic e of  te na nt  ri gh ts  in  c on sp ic uo us  p la ce  a nd  a ls o m ai l n ot ic e to  e ac h te na nt  a nn ua lly In  c as es  o f d em ol iti on  o f e xi st in g re nt al  h ou si ng  a nd  r ed ev el op m en t, th e C ity  re qu ire s pr ep ar at io n of  a  te na nt  re lo ca tio n an d as si st an ce  p la n th at  o ffe rs  p ro vi si on  o f al te rn at iv e ac co m m od at io n fo r te na nt s at  s im ila r re nt s,  ri gh t- of -fi rs t- re fu sa l t o oc cu py  o ne  o f t he  re pl ac em en t u ni ts  a nd  o th er  (f in an ci al ) as si st an ce  to  le ss en  h ar ds hi p. 68 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY F or  a ll te na nt s w ho  h av e re si de d in  b ui ld in g fo r at  le as t 3 0 co ns ec ut iv e da ys : B ui ld in g ow ne r m us t p ro vi de  te na nt s w ith  9 0 da ys  n ot ic e of  te rm in at io n of  te na nc y. S D  H ou si ng  C om m is si on  p ro vi de s as si st an ce  lo ca tin g ne w  a ffo rd ab le  h ou si ng . In  a dd iti on , f or  te na nt s w ho  h av e re si de d in  b ui ld in g fo r at  le as t 9 0 co ns ec ut iv e da ys , o w ne r m us t p ay : -- R en t r eb at e of  $ 10 /m on th  fo r ea ch  m on th ’s  r es id en cy  ( m ax  $ 21 0) , p lu s: O w ne r w ho  w an ts  to  a lte r/c on ve rt /d em ol is h an  S R O  b ld g m us t o ffe r to  te na nt s th e op po rtu ni ty  to  re lo ca te  to  a  c om pa ra bl e un it/ co m pa ra bl e re nt  in  th e sa m e bo ro ug h. 69 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY -- (fo r de m ol iti on ) – 2x  te na nt ’s  a ve ra ge  m on th ly  re nt  fo r pa st  1 2 m on th s,  O R  (f or  re ha bi lit at io n)  –  te na nt ’s  a ve ra ge  m on th ly  r en t f or  p as t 1 2 m on th s O w ne r m us t s ub m it to  H P D , w ith  p er m it ap pl ic at io n,  (1 ) lis t o f a ll te na nt s in  o cc up an cy  a nd  a  s w or n st at em en t v er ify in g th at  e ve ry  te na nt  w ho  h as  v ac at ed  s in ce  e na ct m en t o f t hi s pr ov is io n w as  a w ar e of  h is /h er  ri gh ts ; ( 2)  a  re lo ca tio n pl an  fo r ea ch  te na nt . H P D  m us t a pp ro ve  p la n,  th en  w or ks  w ith  te na nt s on  a cc ep ta nc e of  re lo ca tio n of fe rs . ( N o lo ng er  a pp lic ab le ) Sa n Fr an ci sc o Sa n D ie go N ew  Y or k C ity To ro nt o 70 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY C ity  a ge nc y co nt ac t i nf or m at io n D ep ar tm en t o f B ui ld in g In sp ec tio n (4 15 ) 55 8- 60 88 ht tp :// w w w .s fg ov .o rg /s ite /d bi _i nd ex .a sp M ay or ’s  O ffi ce  o f H ou si ng (4 15 ) 25 2- 31 77 ht tp :// sf go v. or g/ si te /m oh _i nd ex .a sp S an  D ie go  H ou si ng  C om m is si on ht tp :// w w w .s dh c. ne t/ 61 9- 23 1- 94 00 sd hc in fo @ sd hc .o rg D ep ar tm en t o f H ou si ng  P re se rv at io n an d D ev el op m en t ( H P D ) (2 12 ) 86 3- 80 00 ht tp :// w w w .n yc .g ov /h tm l/h pd /h om e. ht m l S R O  C om pl ia nc e U ni t ( pa rt  o f H P D ) (2 12 ) 86 3- 85 15 D ep ar tm en t o f B ui ld in gs C om m un ity  a nd  N ei gh bo ur ho od  S er vi ce s – S he lte r,  H ou si ng  a nd  S up po rt  D iv is io n ht tp :// w w w .c ity .to ro nt o. on .c a/ ho us in g/ in de x. ht m sh s@ to ro nt o. ca U rb an  D ev el op m en t S er vi ce s – C ity  P la nn in g D iv is io n 41 6- 39 2- 75 39 71 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY ht tp :// w w w .n yc .g ov /h tm l/d ob /h om e. ht m l ht tp :// w w w .c ity .to ro nt o. on .c a/ pl an ni ng /in de x. ht m Le t’s  B ui ld  P ro gr am 41 6- 39 2- 42 84 ht tp :// w w w .to ro nt o. ca /d ep ts /lb _l et sb ui ld .h tm N ew  S R O  d ev el op m en t S an  F ra nc is co  R ed ev el op m en t A ge nc y (le ga lly  a  s ep ar at e en tit y fro m  th e C ity , b ut  e xi st s so le ly  to  p er fo rm  c er ta in  fu nc tio ns  ex cl us iv el y fo r an d by  a ut ho riz at io n of  th e C ity ) al lo ca te s fu nd in g an d pr ov id es  a dm in is tra tiv e ov er si gh t f or  S R O  re de ve lo pm en t i n ce rta in  d is tri ct s.  E xt en si ve  p ro gr am  to  e nc ou ra ge  n ew  d ev el op m en t o f S R O s.  S pe ci fic  s te ps  a nd  m ea su re s: S tro ng  n on -p ro fit  s ec to r in vo lv em en t i n ac qu is iti on  a nd  re ha bi lit at io n of  S R O s an d co ns tru ct io n of  n ew  s el f-c on ta in ed  s m al l s ui te s (m in i st ud io  a pa rtm en ts ) fo r ve ry  lo w -in co m e te na nt s.   C ity  p ro vi de s in te re st -f re e lo an s to  n on -p ro fit s fo r ac qu is iti on  o f S R O s.  E xt en si ve  p ro gr am  to  e nc ou ra ge  n ew  d ev el op m en t o f S R O s (a nd  ot he r fo rm s of  lo w -in co m e ho us in g) . S pe ci fic  s te ps : 72 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY Th e C ity  h as  n ot  u nd er ta ke n an  a ct iv e pr og ra m  to  s tim ul at e or  e nc ou ra ge  n ew  S R O  d ev el op m en t. S tro ng  n on -p ro fit  s ec to r in vo lv em en t i n ac qu is iti on /re ha bi lit at io n of  S R O s an d co ns tru ct io n of  n ew  s el f-c on ta in ed  s m al l s ui te s (s tu di o ap ar tm en ts ) fo r ve ry  lo w -in co m e te na nt s. (1 )  F or m in g ta sk  fo rc e co ns is tin g of  d ev el op er s,  h om el es s ad vo ca te s,  C ity ’s  F ire  a nd  B ui ld in g D ep ar tm en ts , H ou si ng  C om m is si on C ity  a ls o pr ov id es  s ub si di es  to  n on -p ro fit s fo r ne w  c on st ru ct io n an d w ai ve s de ns ity  a nd  z on in g re qu ire m en ts  fo r no n- pr of it de ve lo pe rs  o f S R O s/ sm al le r s ui te s. (1 )  O ffe rin g m un ic ip al  in ce nt iv es  (s pe ci fic  la nd  s ite s,  fi na nc ia l r es ou rc es  fr om  C ap ita l R ev ol vi ng  fu nd );  (2 )  U nd er ta ki ng  p ilo t p ro je ct  c on si st in g of  3  S R O  m od el s/ pr ot ot yp es  (m ar ke t, as si st ed , s up po rti ve );  73 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY (2 )  W or ki ng  w ith  S ta te  to  c re at e a ho us in g de fin iti on  o f a  1 50  s q.  ft . " liv in g un it"  w hi ch  a llo w ed  fo r ba th ro om  a nd  k itc he n fa ci lit ie s be lo w  th e pr ev io us  s ta nd ar d (3 )  M ak in g su bs ta nt ia l b ui ld in g an d co de  c ha ng es  to  r ed uc e an d el im in at e pa rk in g re qu ire m en ts  a nd  a llo w  fo r gr ea te r de ns iti es , t ax  re du ct io ns , a nd  b ui ld in g on  co m m er ci al  o r in du st ria l s ite s. (3 )  C ha ng es  to  z on in g an d ot he r re gu la tio ns  to  s up po rt S R O  d ev el op m en t ( lo ca tio n,  p ar ki ng  re qu ire m en ts , u ni t s iz e,  re qu ire m en ts  fo r cu lin ar y/ sa ni ta ry  fa ci lit ie s) ; (4 )  W or ki ng  w ith  P ro vi nc e to  a m en d bu ild in g co de 74 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY (4 )  N eg ot ia te d pu bl ic -p riv at e pa rtn er sh ip s fo r fin an ci ng  9  n ew  S R O  p ro je ct s an d in ve st ed  $ 4. 7 m ill io n in  th es e pr oj ec ts (5 )  L et ’s  B ui ld  p ro gr am  h os tin g de si gn  c om pe tit io n fo r pu rp os e- bu ilt  S R O  o n C ity -o w ne d si te  -  2 00 4 In ce nt iv es  fo r S R O  p re se rv at io n an d su pp or ts  fo r ow ne rs  a nd  te na nt s A llo w in g ow ne rs  to  r en t l im ite d # of  r es id en tia l u ni ts  to  to ur is ts  d ur in g w in te r m on th s N on e Lo w -in te re st  lo an s fo r re si de nt ia l b ui ld in g re ha bi lit at io n (n ot  li m ite d to  S R O s) C ity  a dm in is te rs  fe de ra l R es id en tia l R eh ab ili ta tio n A ss is ta nc e P ro gr am  (R R A P ) fu nd s,  in cl ud in g de di ca te d fu nd in g fo r ro om in g ho us es . 75 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY T ax  in ce nt iv es : 4 88 -A  p ro gr am  p ro vi de s S R O  o w ne rs  w ith  ta x ab at em en t a nd  e xe m pt io ns  fo r im pr ov in g an d re ha bi lit at in g th ei r pr op er tie s.  O w ne r S er vi ce s P ro gr am : f in an ci al  a nd  m an ag em en t a dv ic e,  re fe rr al s fo r lo an s an d ot he r re so ur ce s,  a nd  c ou ns el in g fo r re si de nt ia l b ui ld in g ow ne rs . R oo m in g H ou se  W or ki ng  G ro up P ilo t p ro je ct  to  le ga liz e ro om in g ho us e un its  w ith  a pp ro pr ia te  h ea lth  a nd  s af et y st an da rd s. 76 FIGURE 3: CITY PROFILES SUMMARY H ou si ng  E du ca tio n P ro gr am : c ou rs es  fo r ow ne rs  a nd  m an ag er s on  b ui ld in g m an ag em en t, fin an ce , t en an t r el at io ns , b ui ld in g an d ph ys ic al  p la nt  m ai nt en an ce , p ro pe rty  la w  p ro ce du re s,  e th ic s,  a nd  m or e. Fu nd in g fo r “E vi ct io n P re ve nt io n P ilo t P ro je ct ” to  p ro vi de  r es ou rc es  a nd  a ss is ta nc e fo r te na nt s w ho  a re  a t r is k of  b ei ng  u nf ai rly  ev ic te d Sa n Fr an ci sc o Sa n D ie go N ew  Y or k C ity To ro nt o 77 4.  ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION One of the recurring themes throughout the information presented thus far on single room occupancy housing is the fact that, although SROs can present significant problems for tenants, owners, and municipal governments, their value as a vital low-cost housing resource for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals makes them well worth the effort to protect and maintain until such time as they can be replaced with better quality affordable housing.  Close examination of municipal policies aimed at preserving and encouraging SRO housing, and of City governments’ efforts to enforce and uphold those policies, cultivates a greater understanding and a deeper respect for this paradoxical condition.  One factor is that the problems with SROs have been emphasized in the media and in political discourse – recently as well as historically – while the positive aspects of SRO housing and tenants have been diminished and understated.  In response to this situation, new strategies and policies are needed that recognize the important role SROs play in housing low-income singles while also identifying and attempting to resolve problem areas. Addressing SRO housing through contemporary planning practice Perhaps the most powerful underlying dynamic that undermines public strategies to protect SROs is the conflict between private property rights and the public interest.  When opposition to restrictions on demolishing, altering or converting SROs arises from property owners, potential developers, neighbors, or other community members, it is usually based on the view that government is unfairly limiting owners’ freedom to do as they see fit with their properties and impeding their ability to earn profitable returns on their investments.  The ‘public interest’ response to this argument is that SRO housing stock, which has existed as part of the built environment for nearly a century, is now critically endangered.  Moreover, SROs provide significant public benefits that outlive the interests of individual owners, whose claims to particular buildings are very short-term relative to the chronological life of those buildings.  It is important that local officials are prepared to handle such conflicts of interest and effectively communicate the reasons and justifications behind their actions to affected parties as well as the general public. 78 Because operating an aging SRO building requires substantial inputs of money and skilled human resources, when a local government makes the commitment to preserve and maintain the city’s existing SROs, it also has an obligation to put systems and programs in place that will promote their continuing viability, both financially (for owners) and as decent and affordable housing (for tenants). Comprehensive strategies are needed in order to achieve the goal of continuing viability of SROs as permanent housing for very low-income tenants, including: • Ensuring preservation of buildings • Encouraging physical maintenance and rehabilitation • Ensuring proper management of buildings and adequate support for both tenants and building managers • Ensuring a sufficient stream of income for building owners With respect to development of new forms of low-income housing based on the SRO model, the current trend in most cities is toward self-contained “smaller suites,” which are not really SROs in the classic sense but rather modern reinterpretations of older residential hotels.  Some housing officials and developers continue to refer to these smaller suites designed for low-income renters as “SROs,” but in practice the vast majority of new housing developments for very low-income singles are self-contained suites that provide only minimal cooking and bath facilities rather than complete kitchens and bathrooms. However there are exceptions, such as San Diego’s Baltic Inn, which combine some private facilities (toilet, microwave) as well as some common facilities (shared showers) and are thus more similar to traditional SROs. It is critically important for municipalities to build productive relationships with senior levels of government around affordable housing preservation and development issues.  This can be difficult when a conservative provincial/state administration is in power that does not favor substantial public support for affordable housing (British Columbia’s Liberal government, for example, currently supports affordable housing for frail seniors but not for other tenant groups who require supportive or social housing). Nonetheless, in order to maximize success at the local level municipalities should take such actions as initiating dialogue with senior government authorities to increase awareness of the regulations and resources needed to sustain SROs, and generally cultivating good working relationships with 79 provincial/state and federal housing agencies.  One possible approach is to form alliances or coalitions with other municipalities and/or regional governance bodies in order to strengthen cities’ influence and bargaining power with senior governments. Factors that contribute to successful implementation of SRO policies The experiences of other municipalities – the good examples and success stories as well as the challenges they have faced and the mistakes that have been made – demonstrate important points about the conditions and actions that facilitate strong implementation of policies related to SROs.  A number of common ideas and principles emerge from reading and research on municipal SRO policies and initiatives, critiques of these policies by housing/tenant advocates and SRO owners, and dialogue with City officials and professionals in the affordable housing industry. Preservation of existing SROs With respect to SRO preservation, policies are most effective when they are kept as concise and simple as possible while still allowing enough flexibility and specificity to local context that they will receive political support and encourage maximum compliance by building owners.  If regulations are overly complex, implementation and enforcement efforts can get bogged down by matters that are peripheral or secondary to the intended focus.  The simpler the regulations, the more they will promote compliance by building owners; similarly, the more clearly the regulations are understood by SRO tenants, the more effective they will be in protecting the rights of those tenants in the event that they are displaced.  However, conciseness and simplicity must be balanced with flexibility – an overly rigid policy does not serve the best interests of owners, tenants, or the City.  The most effective regulations make reasonable concessions to allow owners to run profitable businesses (in the case of privately owned SROs) and give positive incentives and tangible means for building maintenance and improvements. Perhaps most importantly, they are also clear and precise enough that they are not open to rampant legal challenges and wrongful interpretations. A related issue is the need to balance the protection of tenant rights and building owner rights. Since landlords are typically in a position of greater power than tenants (especially tenant populations that 80 include low-income, disabled, or otherwise marginalized individuals), it is highly appropriate to design policies that place a high priority on tenant rights.  However, care should be taken to ensure that the burden placed on SRO owners is not excessive, particularly if broad goals concerning a City’s affordable housing supply are being achieved with reasonable success.  Moreover, while owners have a definite responsibility to assist tenants who are displaced by SRO conversions or demolitions, the City can also define and play an appropriate role in tenant assistance since a municipal government is more likely than an individual SRO owner to have the specialized knowledge and resources to carry this out. Another key factor is proactive rather than passive enforcement.  Some municipalities have regulations on conversions and demolitions of SRO housing on the books but are negligent about enforcement; this tends to benefit private owners of SROs at the tenants’ expense.  If a city’s SRO regulations require owners to submit information and documentation (e.g. regarding occupancy as residential or tourist), the responsible government agency should routinely verify the information provided.  Physical inspections of buildings are also essential, and violations should be handled strictly and without tolerance.  Finally, tenants should be made fully aware of their rights under the regulations and empowered and encouraged to take action if a landlord is in violation of the regulations.  The municipal government should establish a system through which tenants or housing advocacy groups can file complaints against owners and these complaints can be resolved fairly, efficiently, and without delay. City officials who work directly on administering local SRO regulations have repeatedly emphasized the importance of ensuring a policy’s consistency and compliance with applicable and relevant local, state/provincial, and federal regulations.  As illustrated by observations from the City of Toronto, the existence of a supportive legal framework at the provincial level is critical to the success of affordable housing preservation policies.  Separate local policies that should function in a complementary manner cannot work smoothly and effectively unless the specific provisions of those policies are harmonized with one another, such as the example from San Francisco of the SRO preservation and rent control ordinances that employ two different and conflicting definitions of “residential use.”  Likewise, legal difficulties may arise down the road if a municipal policy authorizes different measures than similar 81 policies set by senior governments, as was the case with San Diego’s requirement for giving tenants 90 days notice of termination that was at odds with California state law. Finally, one of the most obvious yet sometimes one of the most elusive factors is the availability of funding for rehabilitating and upgrading SROs that are required by local ordinance to continue operating as low-income housing.  Preservation policies are most likely to achieve their intended purpose over the long term and to gain the support and cooperation of building owners and public officials when a city government makes active efforts to secure financial resources for improving the physical condition of buildings.  Federal funds have been made available for this purpose both in the United States (HUD’s rehabilitation programs for low-income housing) and in Canada (CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program). Municipalities can successfully increase funding for SRO rehabilitation by lobbying federal governments for additional resources to help achieve this important objective and by placing a high priority on allocation of senior government funds and subsidies to SRO projects.  Although it is recognized that municipal governments generally have limited financial resources to dedicate to social housing, some cities have been successful in approving property tax exemptions for SRO rehabilitation projects and establishing funds for grants or low-interest rehabilitation loans.  When city resources are scarce, the private sector can also be encouraged to contribute to the expenses of SRO renovations through height and density bonuses applied to new development projects (developers can either carry out actual renovations on existing older SRO buildings or make cash contributions to a City affordable housing fund that can then be redistributed to SRO building owners). New development of SROs/small suites Creating an environment that is conducive to construction of new SROs is dependent on the adoption of appropriate regulations.  Two types of changes are necessary: revisions to building codes and other standards to bring SROs into legal compliance, and reductions in construction costs so that SROs are financially feasible to build.  As illustrated by the work of the Cities of San Diego and Toronto, some of the primary changes that must be made include minimum living unit sizes, requirements for kitchen and bath facilities, and minimum parking requirements.  Definitions, building codes, and other regulations 82 usually must be amended first at the state/provincial level and then again at the municipal level through modifications to zoning by-laws or ordinances. Equally important is the adoption of appropriate financial mechanisms.  In order to help developers make the financial equations work for SRO projects, municipalities can implement reduced tax assessment classes for multifamily residential projects; provide partial or full property tax exemptions for new SROs; decrease or waive development cost charges for SROs; and donate, sell, or lease land for SRO projects at below-market rates.  They can also offer low-interest loans to developers of SROs as an alternative to conventional loans (this is usually done in exchange for restrictions on rents for a set period of time).  Municipalities can make new SRO production (or cash contributions for this purpose) a high priority among the public benefits that are elicited through height and density bonus agreements with private developers. Finally, municipalities can secure various contributions from senior governments including direct funding, land sites, and refunds on state/provincial and federal taxes for developers of SRO projects. Private and non-profit housing providers in SRO development and management The case study cities tended to have either exclusively non-profit developers (e.g. San Francisco) or exclusively for-profit developers(e.g. San Diego) working in the field of new SRO production.  The reasons for this are probably somewhat unique to each locality, but in general private developers are hesitant to enter the SRO market because of the complicated landscape of financing and subsidies, higher risks, and lower returns on their investments (Mabrey 2004), while non-profit developers choose to become involved in SRO construction because of their missions to serve low-income tenants.  The reality is that each has something valuable to offer to the SRO housing field: private market firms have greater resources at their disposal to build these much-needed housing types, while non-profits have the best interests of vulnerable SRO tenants at heart rather than viewing SRO housing as simply an unmet market niche and an opportunity for return on an investment. In terms of operating SROs (both older and newer buildings), numerous examples from cities across North America demonstrate the benefits of non-profit management.  Non-profit housing 83 organizations tend to maintain the most functional and supportive living environment for vulnerable and special needs tenants.  In addition to the case study cities featured in this report, non-profit SRO management success stories are found in Los Angeles (see Raubeson 1992), Chicago (see Butzen 1996), and many other cities.  The argument in favor of non-profit management is also expressed succinctly in Groth’s depiction of “pro-SRO people from the social welfare field….[as opposed to] anti-SRO people from the property industry” (Groth 1994, 286). The ideal strategy, then, would be for a municipal government to seek ways of stimulating SRO development among, and making it feasible for, both non-profit and for-profit developers.  Moreover, the City would seek ways to assist and support non-profits that manage SROs.  There are many good examples of this in New York City, such as the Owner Services Program (although this is not offered strictly to non-profit housing managers, similar forms of assistance and support that are specifically designed for the non-profit sector could be modeled after New York’s initiatives).  Finally, the City would play a role in facilitating the transition between rehabilitation and construction of buildings by private market companies and ongoing management by non-profit groups.  New York City’s SRO preservation ordinance includes a requirement that rehabilitated or newly constructed replacement units must be sold or leased to a non-profit organization.  This simple mechanism for transitioning SROs from private market to non-profit control makes it easier for SROs to offer subsidized rents, integrate support services if necessary, and otherwise generally cater to the best interests of very low-income tenants. Supporting older and newer SROs In addition to the practical details that have been discussed thus far, the ‘big picture’ – that is, the broad perspective taken by municipalities on both older and newer SROs – is significant.  First and foremost, successful SRO policies are based on the view that preservation of existing stock and creation of new SRO housing are not separate objectives, but two complementary halves of the same goal, as exemplified by the San Diego Housing Commission’s approach.  Preservation and new development should be addressed simultaneously and in an integrated manner rather than separately.  Secondly, the most effective strategies for supporting SRO housing – older residential hotel and rooming house stock as 84 well as newly constructed SROs – also incorporate an active recognition of the different functions and tenant populations that are served.   They endorse and promote corresponding SRO prototypes that feature different levels of rent subsidy and social services provision (e.g. Toronto’s models of market, assisted, and supportive SROs).  Finally, strong SRO policies are grounded within and linked to larger policy contexts such as local area housing plans, the municipality’s Official Plan, and city or regional homelessness plans.  One important factor that has not been particularly well addressed by the case study cities is monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of SRO regulations and incentive programs.  In order to assess strengths and correct problem areas, a municipal government should create a system for reviewing quantitative and qualitative information on SRO preservation and new production and then measuring this information against policy goals and objectives.  The system should also include a mechanism for meaningfully incorporating the views and needs of affected community members, including tenants, landlords and owners, and community leaders. Assessment of Vancouver’s SRA By-law in light of insights gained from other cities Although Vancouver’s SRA By-law has been in effect for less than six months at the time of this study’s culmination, a number of elements of its design and enactment have been handled very well from its inception. The by-law has been shaped by an indepth understanding among City staff of the multiple complex factors that affect the supply of and demand for low-income housing in the downtown area, and this foundation is reflected in the regulations in a number of ways. One of the by-law’s fundamental strengths is its usage of the City’s Survey of Low-Income Housing in the Downtown Core as a basis for designating units as Single Room Accommodation (SRA). This system for defining the housing stock that is affected by the regulations is clear, simple, and efficient.  The fact that the City has been carefully monitoring the stock of SROs and other low-income housing for a number of years gives Vancouver an immediate advantage over other municipalities that have attempted to regulate activity around SROs without having accurate knowledge of the status of that housing stock. 85 Furthermore, Vancouver’s SRA regulations are rooted within a broader policy context, i.e. the draft Downtown Eastside Housing Plan (which is being updated as of March 2004 and will soon be put forth for public consultation), as well as within a larger community revitalization process for the Downtown Eastside.  The City is addressing single room occupancy housing in a coordinated manner along with other housing and planning issues in the downtown area rather than attempting to manage the SRO stock in isolation from other social and economic forces.  The SRA regulations are also related and complementary to other local and regional measures, specifically the housing strategies of the Vancouver Agreement and the Regional Homelessness Plan for Greater Vancouver.  The City can therefore enhance the success of the SRA By-law by building upon this previous work related to SROs, supportive and transitional housing, and general affordable housing in the Downtown Eastside and the region. Vancouver’s regulations on SRO conversions and demolitions differ from those of the case study cities in a number of ways.  The most fundamental difference is rooted in the fact that, unlike cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and San Diego, Vancouver’s by-law was not an emergency measure in response to an immediate crisis situation.  Each of the aforementioned cities passed their ordinances following moratoria on SRO conversions and demolitions that were prompted by aggressive public campaigning and highly visible instances of SRO tenants being abruptly sent into the streets.  While tenant evictions and loss of SRO rooms are still realities and causes for concern in Vancouver, the context is quite different here in the early 2000s than in large U.S. cities in the 1980s.  The adoption of Vancouver’s SRA by-law has been as much a proactive measure as it has been a reactive one, recognized as necessary in anticipation of future trends such as development pressures in the downtown area and the impacts of the 2010 Olympic Games on Vancouver’s housing markets. As a result, the focus and intended effects of the SRA By-law are different from those in other cities.  Vancouver is not attempting to prevent all losses of existing SRO stock nor is the City holding building owners responsible for one-for-one replacement.  City planning staff emphasize that the purpose of the new by-law is to manage the rate of change of low-income housing in Vancouver’s downtown core rather than to stop all demolitions and conversions, with the primary goal of ensuring that the loss of 86 designated SRA units does not exceed the rate of new social housing development (Mauboules and Edelson 2003). A secondary goal of the SRA By-law is to capture some level of compensation from property owners when SRA rooms are removed from housing stock that can then be channeled into new low- income housing solutions, but unlike the SRO regulations in other cities, this is not intended to cover the full cost of replacing the units.  Vancouver city planners put a great deal of analysis and consideration into determining the amount of the payment that may be required as a condition of approval of an SRA conversion or demolition permit, deciding in the end on a payment of $5000 per room.  This amount was selected in order to strike a balance between reducing the number of owners who would attempt to convert or demolish designated SRA rooms, while still maintaining the economic viability of many potential conversions and avoiding disincentives to redevelopment and replacement of aging buildings (note also that the payment may be assessed on a discretionary basis; it is not an automatic or fixed part of the regulations.  In some cases, no payment may be required). Given, however, that (1) the City is concerned about the demand for low-income housing being far greater than the supply, (2) the need for low-income housing in Vancouver is expected to increase dramatically in the near future due to the provincial welfare cuts, and (3) there is currently little funding available at the municipal, provincial or federal levels for social housing, there is sufficient justification to consider slightly increasing the fee.  For example, if it is politically feasible at a future time, the City might consider amending the by-law to allow for a variable payment schedule for converted or demolished SRA rooms that is based on one or more factors related to the current supply of low-income housing in Vancouver.  Under this system the fee may in some cases be higher than $5000 per room, the rationale being that the City should collect a higher level of compensation for loss of SRA rooms during times when the availability of low-income housing is scarce. As previously noted, the SRA By-law requires owners to post a notice in a conspicuous location in the building that states which rooms are designated as SRA.  When an owner applies to the City for a conversion or demolition permit, s/he must also post a notice that informs tenants of the application. 87 While these tenant notification requirements are important and positive provisions of the by-law, they only partially inform tenants of their legal rights relative to the SRA regulations.  Better protection for these tenants could be established by providing them with access to a full, clear, plain-language explanation of the meaning and effects of the SRA designation as well as related tenant rights (including relocation assistance and financial compensation in the event of permanent displacement or temporary relocation to allow seasonal tourist rentals), right of first refusal to occupy a rehabilitated SRA room, etc. Conclusions The City of Vancouver seeks to obtain information from U.S. and Canadian cities that have several years of experience administering regulations and policies on SRO housing in order to provide insight into successes and challenges that can then be used to improve its own recently adopted SRA By- law.  However, in many ways Vancouver’s thinking, if not yet its full implementation of these ideas, is already ahead of other cities that have had SRO regulations in effect for two decades or more.  In comparison with other cities, Vancouver’s regulations are flexible and responsive enough to accommodate building owners’ interests while also protecting tenants’ access to affordable housing, which will probably bode well for the prospects of long-term enforceability.  They are also they are consistent with the objective of gradual upgrading and replacement of the stock of SRA rooms.  As a result the City is in a position to implement its agenda for single room occupancy housing with a degree of success that has been intended but not fully achieved elsewhere.  Of course, lessons from other places can be meaningfully applied as Vancouver’s by-law is developed and refined over time, particularly with respect to the City’s primary goals of: (1) expanding the basic regulatory system into a comprehensive set of measures to maintain and support single room occupancy housing structures, the owners and operators who manage them, and the tenants who call them home; and (2) creating a policy environment that will encourage development of new, higher-quality housing stock for very low-income individuals that will gradually replace older SRA units.  The final section of this report offers suggestions for further consideration and investigation that may improve the long-term effectiveness of Vancouver’s SRA by-law. 88 5.  POLICY IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CITY OF VANCOUVER Based on the information gathered from other cities on implementation of SRO preservation and development policies, and on a comparison and analysis of Vancouver’s SRA by-law and related policies and programs, the following suggestions are offered to maximize the effectiveness of efforts to preserve existing SRO stock and stimulate development of new housing for low-income singles in the City of Vancouver.  Some of these items are relatively simple actions that can be applied immediately, while others are long-term measures that will require further study and planning, additional funding and resources, and/or collaboration with the provincial and federal governments. Administration of SRA regulations 1. Ensure that the City continues to carry out active enforcement of the SRA regulations on conversions and demolitions ð   Enforce the regulations through such means as periodic random verifications of the records maintained by managers of SRA buildings (guest ledgers, rent receipts, etc) and physical inspection of buildings. ð   Provide a forum and protocol for tenant complaints and respond to them in a resolute and timely manner, but these complaints should not serve as the only motivating factor in enforcement efforts.  2. Consider amending the by-law in the future to establish a variable payment scale for the fee charged for each converted or demolished SRA room. ð   The amount charged may be greater than $5000 per room in some cases and less in other cases.  Any of several relevant factors could be used to determine the amount to be assessed per room as a condition for a specific permit, such as: • the rate of construction of new social housing in Vancouver (or alternatively, the ratio of the loss of SRA rooms to the construction of new social housing units) during the past year, or other time period deemed appropriate; • the citywide vacancy rate for rental housing; • the average rent for SRA rooms (or bachelor suites); • the quality of the housing stock to be converted or demolished ð   The by-law could further state that no payment in compensation for lost SRA rooms will be required if the availability of low-cost housing in Vancouver remains at or above a certain threshold level for an established period of time. This threshold could be represented by any of the following indicators that the City deems appropriate: • the total number of low-income housing units in the downtown core, or in the city as a whole, or • the number of new low-income housing units produced in the city. 89 3. Consider allowing monies deposited in the reserve fund, i.e. those collected through both payments for converted and demolished SRA rooms and penalties for violations of the by- law, to be applied to a range of programs and initiatives related to SROs rather than strictly to capital costs for replacement low-income housing. ð   For example, the fund could be allocated as follows: • 75% for replacement housing • 5% for tenant relocation assistance and review and approval of tenant relocation plans (supplementing existing Tenant Assistance Program budget) • 20% for other SRO support programs (SRO Management Course, loan fund for SRO rehabilitation, etc) 4. Improve the provisions of the SRA by-law regarding tenant relocation and assistance in the following ways: ð   Require owners to provide all tenants of designated SRA rooms with a full and clear written explanation of their rights relative to the SRA regulations, including relocation assistance, financial compensation, right of first refusal provisions, etc. ð   Clarify tenant rights in terms of the duration that they are allowed to occupy units following the issuance of a demolition or conversion permit. 5. Retain a discretionary system for reviewing permit applications for SRA conversions and demolitions (i.e., do not replace it with an ‘as-of-right’ system at the close of the by-law’s initial 18-month review period). ð  The rationale for continued use of a discretionary system is that it allows for critical factors such as the quality of the SRA stock in question, the supply of low-cost housing, and anticipated future availability of low-income housing stock to be taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis. 6. Create an SRA Advisory Committee to provide input on conversion and demolition permit applications to Council, or to the City official or board to which this decision-making authority is delegated at a future time. ð   The proposed composition of this committee is tenants and for-profit and non-profit owners/operators of designated SRA buildings. 7. Develop a formal structure and process for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the SRA regulations. ð   Consider preparing an annual or bi-annual “Review of SRA Status” that addresses data on conversions and demolitions, quantity and quality of the remaining SRA stock, compliance with the regulations by building owners, the City’s enforcement efforts, and complementary programs related to SRA housing.  The review could make use of one or more of the following sources of information: • Comments made by community members at special public meetings convened for this purpose, • A sampling of the records maintained by managers of SRA buildings, • Licenses and inspection records, • The City’s existing bi-annual Survey of Low Income Housing in the Downtown Core, 90 • Other data provided by City agencies such as Central Area Planning and the Housing Centre. ð    Seek formal input from the SRA Advisory Committee on an annual or bi-annual basis regarding needed revisions to the regulations, proposed new programs to support tenants and owners/operators, etc. 8. As part of the 18-month evaluation of the SRA by-law, conduct a thorough review of relevant local and provincial laws and regulations to make sure that the by-law is consistent and in compliance with these. Programs and incentives to enhance and support existing SRA housing 9. Establish and offer financial incentives to encourage rehabilitation and physical improvements to SROs, such as: 10. Partial or full property tax exemptions 11. Height and density bonuses 12. A low-interest loan fund ð   Develop criteria for reviewing and awarding applications for these incentives, including physical quality of the stock and number of tenants housed. 13. Establish and offer incentives for establishing successful retail businesses or other income- producing enterprises in the ground-floor commercial space of SROs, such as low-interest loans to assist with start-up costs. ð   Assist SRO owners who are interested in launching businesses to generate supplemental income from their buildings through referrals to local community economic development resources and business management training courses. 14. Continue the pilot projects established through the Vancouver Agreement to support and improve conditions in SROs, i.e. the SRO Management Course and the Pre-employment Skill Development for SRO tenants. ð   Ensure a secure and ongoing source of funding for these programs and provide other types of support as necessary. 15. Explore and devise ways to encourage the transfer of ownership and/or management of SRO buildings from private parties to non-profit organizations. 16. Create an “Single Room Accommodation Operations Manual” to be distributed to the management of all buildings in Vancouver with designated SRA rooms. ð   The manual might covers such topics as: An explanation of the conversion and demolition regulations as laid out in the SRA by-law; physical maintenance standards and codes; information on tenant rights and guidance on making referrals to the City’s Tenant Assistance Program; a summary of landlord rights and responsibilities; techniques for dealing with difficult tenants; and a list of social service providers and other community resources.  91 Facilitating new SRO development 17. Solicit input from low-income tenants and currently homeless individuals regarding housing design issues, needed support services, and desired amenities. ð   Hold one or more public meetings and/or community charrettes to generate input and ideas for new SROs or small suites. 18. Work with the Province to pass building and/or fire code amendments that are necessary to allow construction of smaller suites with minimal or shared kitchen and bath facilities. 19. Review and change zoning and other regulations in order to facilitate development of SROs or smaller suites, specifically: • Minimum living unit sizes • Minimum parking requirements • Requirements for kitchen and bath facilities • Allowing building on former commercial or industrial sites • Allowing SROs as-of-right in designated high-density residential zones and commercial corridors within other residential zones 20. Develop and approve a set of financial measures and incentives that may be applied to SRO development projects in order to make them economically feasible, such as: • A special tax assessment class for SROs and other multifamily affordable housing projects • Partial or full property tax exemptions • Reduced development cost levies for SRO projects • Dedication of a certain small proportion of the Affordable Housing Fund to SRO projects 21. Prepare and adopt guidelines for different types or models of new SROs or small self- contained suites that: • Are appropriate to different tenant groups, • Provide varying levels of rent restriction and/or subsidy, and • Offer varying levels of integrated support services or linkages to community-based services. 22.  Identify City-owned lands that are appropriate for SRO development that may be donated, or sold or leased long-term at below-market rates, to developers for construction of new SROs. 23. Encourage the federal and provincial governments to provide suitable land sites for SRO development at reduced rates. 24. Work with other Canadian municipalities to persuade the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to provide mortgage loan insurance for SRO housing projects. 92 Comprehensive SRO strategies 25. Consider collaborating with a community-based organization and/or a post-secondary educational institution to develop a strategy to improve public perception of SROs and legitimize SROs as a valuable and valid form of housing. ð   In partnership with one or more groups such as the Portland Hotel Society, Downtown Eastside Residents Association or the UBC Learning Exchange, initiate a public awareness campaign that promotes a positive view of SRO housing (for example, through media outreach, free public presentations on the history and role of SROs, etc. 26. Consolidate the SRA by-law administration and enforcement tasks and the existing and new initiatives to support SROs under a new City division, to be located within the Housing Centre. ð   This division could be titled the “Single Room Accommodation Compliance and Support Division” or something similar.  27. Strongly encourage the provincial and federal governments to restore and expand their past funding programs for social housing generally, and request that a portion of this funding be dedicated for SRO-related programs specifically. ð   In accordance with City budget projections for implementation of selected recommendations, request funding from the province and the federal government to support rehabilitation and upgrading of existing SRO stock, programs to improve economic viability of SROs, and new SRO/smaller suite development. 28. Formally link policies and strategies for SRO preservation and development to the GVRD’s Regional Homelessness Plan and to housing programs under the Vancouver Agreement. ð   This would foster an understanding of the interrelatedness of SRO policies and other measures related to homelessness relief and economic, social and community development. This is important in order that the City’s SRO initiatives may be recognized by senior government as extensions of broader policies and agreements that are currently receiving federal and/or provincial attention and funding. 93 REFERENCES CITED BC Housing (2004).  BC Housing website,  Reviewed 11 February 2004. Bosque, Rosemary (2004).  Chief Housing Inspector, City of San Francisco Department of Building Inspection.  Interview on 20 February 2004. Brodhead, Frank (1998).  “SRO Tenants: Affordable Housing Under Siege.” Tenant Net website.  http://  Reviewed 8 August 2003. Bruser, David (2003).  “Ontario court ruling protects renters.” Toronto Star, 15 October 2003. Butzen, Jean (1996).  “Lakefront SRO Corporation: Reviving Single Room Occupancy Housing.”  Under one roof: issues and innovations in shared housing, ed. George C. Hemmens et. al.  Albany: State University of New York Press. CHRA (2002).  “Municipal Initiatives – Stemming the Loss of Rental Stock,” Canada Housing and Renewal Association, October 2002. http://www.chra-$FILE/Stemming the Loss of Rental Stock English Report.pdf  CMHC (2004). Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program website, http://www.cmhc-  Reviewed 7 March 2004. Casella, Sam (2002). “Tax Increment Financing: A Tool for Rebuilding New York.” pdfs/NYNV_TaxIncrementFinancing.pdf Cell, Kelci (2003). “Single Room Occupancy Hotels.”  The Housing Project, Independent Media Center website.  Reviewed 13 June 2003 City of San Francisco (2004).  SRO Hotel Safety and Stabilization Task Force page, San Francisco Government website.  Reviewed 26 March 2004. City of Toronto (1999a).  “Taking Responsibility for Homelessness: An Action Plan for Toronto,” January 1999. City of Toronto (1999b).  By-law No. 147-1999, “To adopt official plan amendments regarding the conversion to condominium and demolition of rental housing.”  Reviewed 14 November 2003 City of Toronto (1999c).  “Removing barriers to single room occupancy development in Toronto.” Report by the Commissioner of Community and Neighbourhood Services, 28 June 1999.  http://  City of Toronto (2000).  “The Toronto Report Card on Homelessness 2000.” City of Toronto (2002).  Toronto Official Plan, Chapter 3: “Building a Successful City,” November 2002. 94 City of Toronto (2003).  “Let’s Build Outlook” newsletter, vol. 1 no. 2. City of Vancouver (1998).  “Report #4: Housing Plan for the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, Gastown, Strathcona – Draft for Discussion,” July 1998. City of Vancouver (2004a). Housing Centre website, Reviewed 11 February 2004. City of Vancouver (2004b). City Plans website, “Insights into Population and Housing” page. ousing.htm.  Reviewed 12 February 2004. City of Vancouver (2004c).  Downtown Eastside Revitalization website,  Reviewed 13 March. Davidson, Jill (2003). “Downtown Eastside Low-Income Housing Policies.”  Social Development Policy Report to Vancouver City Council, September 3, 2003. Dunphy, Noreen (2004).  Senior Planner, Urban Development Services, City of Toronto.  Interview on 23 February 2004. Eckert, J. Kevin (1979).  “The Unseen Community: Understanding the Older Hotel Dweller.”  Aging Jan/ Feb 1979, 28-35. Elberling, John (2004).  Executive Vice-President, Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, San Francisco.  Interview on 11 March 2004. Foley, Dylan (1998).  “Single Room Occupancy Hotels: Possible Solutions and Alternatives.”  Body Positive vol.XI no.9. Freddie Mac (2004).  Freddie Mac website,  Reviewed 19 March 2004. GVRD (2002). “Research Project on Homelessness in Greater Vancouver” Executive Summary. GVRD (2003).  “Regional Homelessness Plan for Greater Vancouver – Summary 2003). Gallagher, Mary Lou (1993).  “A small room at the inn.” Planning vol. 59 no. 6, 20-25. Gallagher, Tricia (1998).  “SRO Moratorium: ‘Imperfect measure’ to address New York City’s housing crisis signed.” The Doe Fund, Inc. website, PressID=98  Reviewed 8 August 2003. Gray, Cameron (2001). “State of Social Housing in Vancouver.” Housing Policy Report to Vancouver City Council, 3 October 2001. 95 Groth, Paul (1994).  Living downtown: the history of residential hotels in the United States.  Berkeley: The University of California Press. Haley, Barbara (1989).  “The loss of single room occupancy housing in metropolitan areas.” Housing and Society vol. 16 no. 1, 5-15. Mabrey, Ann (2004).  Assistant to the President, Barone, Galasso & Associates, San Diego.  Interview on 15 March 2004. Mauboules, Celine and Nathan Edelson (2003). “Regulation of Single Room Accommodation.” Development and Building Policy Report to Vancouver City Council, 9 September 2003.  http:// Merrifield, Andy (2001).  “Lepers at the City Gate: Single Room Occupancy and the Housing Crisis.” Dissent vol. 48 no. 2, 78-84. NYC HPD (2003).  New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development website,  Reviewed 13 June 2003. New York City Administrative Code (2003a).  Title 27, Chapter 1, Article 19, Section 198.2: Conversion, alteration and demolition of single room occupancy multiple dwellings prohibited.  Reviewed 16 November 2003. New York City Administrative Code (2003b).  Title 27, Chapter 1, Article 19, Section 198.3: Relocation of tenants in occupancy in certain single room occupancy multiple dwellings.  Reviewed 26 November 2003. New York City Administrative Code (2003c).  Title 27, Chapter 2, Article 9, Sections 27-2150 – 2152: Withdrawal of single room occupancy dwelling units from the rental market prohibited.  Reviewed 20 November 2003. New York City Administrative Code (2003d).  Title 27, Chapter 2, Article 9, Section 27-2093: Certification of no harassment with respect to single room occupancy dwelling units.  Reviewed 20 November 2003. New York City Mayor’s Office (2003).  Mayor’s Office Press Release #61-03: “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signs legislation to improve quality of affordable housing,” 28 February 2003. http:// Raubeson, Andy (1992). “Housing for Special Needs Population: Supportive Services in SRO Hotels.” Carolina Planning vol. 18 no. 1., 48-52. Rollinson, Paul A. (1991).  “Elderly Single Room Occupancy Hotel Tenants: Still Alone.” Social Work vol. 36 no. 4, 303-307. SD SRO OATF (2003).  “SRO Ordinance Amendment Task Force Update and Report.”  Excerpted from highlights of San Diego’s Centre City Advisory Committee meeting, 3 September 2003. San Diego Housing Commission (2004).  SDHC website,  Reviewed 20 February 2004. 96 San Diego Municipal Code (2000). Chapter 13, Article 3, Division 5: SRO Hotel Regulations. Reviewed 12 January 2004. San Francisco Administrative Code (2003). Chapter 41: Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition. f=templates&fn=default.htm&vid=alp:sf_admin Reviewed 11 April 2003. San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (2004).  SFRA website, Reviewed 11 March 2004. Shultz, Harold and Ilene Popkin (2004).  Special Counsel (Shultz) and Assistant Commissioner for Resource Development (Popkin), Department of Housing Preservation and Development, City of New York.  Interview on 19 April 2004. Spence, David (2004).  Senior Planner, Urban Development Services, City of Toronto.  Interview on 23 February 2004. TRAC (2002a).  “Pay the rent or feed the kids,” Tenants’ Rights Action Coalition news release, 1 August 2002. TRAC (2002b). “Municipal Report Card on Housing and Homelessness,” Tenants’ Rights Action Coalition and Lower Mainland Network for Affordable Housing joint report, Fall 2002. Tinsky, Susan Riggs (2004).  Policy Area, San Diego Housing Commission.  Interview on 18 February 2004. Vancouver Agreement Coordination Unit (2004).  “Projects in Place” page of Vancouver Agreement website,  Reviewed 13 March 2004. Wood, Chris, (1999). “Small solutions.” Maclean’s vol. 112, no. 10. Zimmerman, Peter (2004).  Housing Development Officer, Let’s Build Program, City of Toronto. Interview on 17 March 2004. 97


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items