New programs include elimination of owner’s recovery of operating & maintenance expenses, creating first-in-the-nation resident ombudsperson program and creating hundreds of new, rent-controlled homes
SAN FRANCISCO – Veritas, San Francisco’s premier operator of rent-controlled housing, today announced new initiatives to help meet the housing needs of San Franciscans.
These initiatives include Veritas’ voluntary elimination of operating & maintenance expense recovery, the creation of a resident ombudsperson to act as a voice and advocate for residents in resolving owner-resident disagreements, and the creation of hundreds of new rent-controlled homes in the city.
“Over the last several months we’ve engaged with and listened to a variety of stakeholders, including our residents and the city’s supervisors, to examine how our company can help address the housing affordability crisis in San Francisco,” said Yat-Pang Au, CEO of Veritas. “We recognize that, to make a difference, we must both provide economic stability in housing costs for our existing residents and develop new rent-controlled homes. That’s why we are launching a first-in-the-nation resident representation effort, ending O&M passthrough costs, and creating hundreds of new rent-controlled homes in the city. These are important steps in continuing to provide quality homes and to be a part of the solution in San Francisco’s housing crisis.”
Veritas Eliminates Recovery of Operating and Maintenance Expenses
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors amended the longstanding rent board ordinance allowing for the passthrough of a limited amount of what are known as “operating and maintenance expenses” from property owners; however, the amendment included a provision where buildings purchased prior to April 3, 2018, with petitions filed after December 11, 2017, were grandfathered in, which has resulted in continued applications by owners around the city for operating and maintenance expense increases.
Effective immediately, Veritas will no longer pursue operating and maintenance passthroughs and will rescind any charges under the grandfathering provision. While Veritas has always followed the system of provisions and protections for residents in San Francisco’s rent ordinance, this new Veritas program goes above and beyond what is required by city law. Veritas will continue its policy of granting Expedited Hardship Waivers on Capital Improvement and bond-related passthroughs to all residents for whom these increases pose an economic hardship.
This initiative will benefit 532 units across 34 buildings. Residents who have already paid O&M passthrough charges for grandfathered petitions filed after December 11th, 2017 will have them credited to their monthly ledger before December 1, 2019.
Veritas has been committed to keeping San Franciscans in a stable and well-maintained housing environment from its inception, and has one of the lowest eviction rates in the city. Veritas’ resident base has an average tenure of 10 years, and residents benefit from deep affordability, with an average rent that is close to 40 percent below market. Through this initiative, Veritas hopes to improve affordability for its residents in an ongoing fashion.
Veritas Offers First-In-Nation Resident Representative
Veritas’ goal is to provide the best possible living experience for its residents and believes this starts with good communication. For that reason, Veritas has launched a pioneering program by naming the apartment industry’s first ombudsperson, whose sole focus is to raise, identify and resolve issues. An ombudsperson is a professional who advocates and seeks an impartial and balanced resolution for a group of people, in this case Veritas residents. Veritas has named Debra Walker, a long-time San Francisco renter advocate and a renter representative on the Department of Building Inspection Commission, as the ombudsperson for Veritas residents. Although only in the role a short time, Debra Walker has already provided supportive outreach in more than a dozen cases on behalf of Veritas residents.
“Debra deeply understands tenant laws and programs, and also how to work with residents, Veritas, and the many facets of the local housing bureaucracy,” said Au. Ombudspersons are not uncommon for public housing, universities or government agencies, but according to the National Multifamily Housing Council in Washington, DC, the Veritas position is the first in the nation in the apartment industry.
“My role is to provide independent and neutral input on residents issues to find resolution, I don’t work for one side,” said Walker. “I focus on specific situations, trying to help move issues to a point where the parties can resolve. Often in this process, you can also identify trends which can lead to discussions about changing policies and protocol.”
Veritas hopes that the availability of a resident ombudsperson, though novel at the moment, will become a standard in the industry.
Creating New Rent-Controlled Homes: Veritas Building Hundreds of Additional Housing Units
Many Veritas-owned buildings contain underutilized storage and parking areas, which can be turned into new rent-controlled homes through San Francisco’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) program. Veritas is excited to partner with the city on this transformative program, which allows owners such as Veritas to build new, rent-controlled homes across the city, helping to address the housing shortage and affordability crisis across San Francisco.
Veritas is engaged in a full evaluation of the potential to build new, rent-controlled homes within its buildings without displacing existing residents. The company hopes to build hundreds of ADU’s over the next 5 years. Veritas also recently joined the Pledge 1% campaign, which leverages a portion of time, product, and profit to philanthropy. Through Veritas Spark, the company’s own social impact initiative, Veritas aims to fulfill its dedication to the Pledge 1% campaign by contributing funds for resident-based subsidies in its newly built ADU housing, further increasing the supply of below-market rate and rent-controlled housing within the City of San Francisco.
Preserving Rent-Controlled Housing
Veritas’ housing stock is predominantly rent-controlled and among the oldest in the West. Many buildings are 100 years old or older and historically face challenges from significant deferred maintenance inherited from prior ownership. Veritas remains committed to restoring these classic San Francisco buildings and addressing safety concerns by installing seismic and fire safety upgrades, followed by needed improvements to major heating and water systems, weatherproofing and lighting.
Veritas will continue to modernize both common areas and unit interiors, bringing modern livability and conveniences to homes that were constructed before the advent of modern household conveniences and expanding the usable life of these early 20th century architectural treasures for future generations.
“I am proud of our record of operating and renovating historic San Francisco properties that have suffered from a lack of investment prior to our ownership,” said Au. “We are committed to better housing our residents and to the City of San Francisco.”