Housing Agency Head, Blasted for Evicting Tenants, Won’t Stick Around

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
CalHFA Board Chairman Matthew Jacobs

Angry California tenants, squeezed by higher rents and fewer affordable rentals, won’t have the chairman of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) to kick around after September.

CalHFA Chairman Matthew Jacobs announced he will not ask to be reappointed to the post by Governor Brown in September. That will give the developer more time to spend tending to tenants at his rent-controlled Beverly Grove apartments in Los Angeles. He’s evicting them using the controversial 1986 Ellis Act to make way for a luxury residential development project. 

That became a hot topic about two months ago when consumer and renter advocacy groups, like Tenants Together (TT), started using Jacobs as the poster child for the state’s insincerity about affordable housing issues. The agency he heads, CalHFA, provides financial assistance for poor and working-class first-time home buyers and participates in the rental market through loans to developers building multifamily housing.

So, tenants wondered where his heart and sympathies lie when he started to evict 17 tenants from four rent-regulated buildings, in a move that has become increasingly popular among apartment-building flippers and developers. Well, they didn’t all wonder.

“Ellis Act evictors like Jacobs have no place making affordable housing policy in this state,” TT Executive Director Dean Preston said in a release. “California tenants have successfully forced Matthew Jacobs out of his leadership position at CalHFA.”

The website for Jacobs’ Beverly Hills-based firm, Bulldog Partners LLC, is a minimalist production that prides itself on simplicity of purpose and makes its entire presentation in a list of 12 short declarations. Most prominent is “We deliver stellar returns to our investors” but the list is led by, “We fix problem buildings.”

Tenants, inspired by problems at Jacobs’ Beverly Grove buildings, picketed an open house at another building he owned and his own home. They also took their protest to the Capitol in Sacramento. Jacobs, who Brown appointed to the board in 2012 and made chairman the following year, did not announce a reason for leaving.

The 1986 Ellis Act was originally intended as a way to let landlords exit the rental business without undue hardship by making it easier to evict tenants. But it has morphed into another creature. Tenants Together found that 60% of San Francisco Ellis evictions in 2013 were by landlords who had held their property for less than one year and 79% were by owners who had made their purchase within the last five years. Cumulative data gathered from 2009-13 was similar.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Embattled California Housing Agency Chairman Leaving in September (by Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee)

Chair of California Housing Finance Agency Steps Down amid Controversy over Ellis Act Evictions (by Darwin BondGraham, East Bay Express)

CalHFA Chair to Leave Amidst Ellis Act Controversy (Tenants Together)

State Housing Agency Head Is Using the Ellis Act to Evict His Own Tenants (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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