San Francisco residential surtax faces opposition

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's housing crisis is not subsiding. On Thursday a group of protesters, mostly Chinese-Americans, marched into San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar's office demanding an end to a proposed residential surtax.

Anyone buying two or more units without living there would be severely taxed if they sell the property within five years. They would be taxed 24 percent the first year and then less every year after that.

Mar got enough votes from the Board of Supervisors to put the measure on the November ballot.

"It's a small, narrow group of people that are flipping buildings so it's really narrowly tailored to only the handful of people that are making profits off people suffering and throwing our housing costs out of whack," Mar said.

The surtax will not be imposed if the property is sold at a loss.

The Chinese Real Estate Association of America opposes the measure. "Most of the Chinese or Asian people, we believe in purchasing property, owning a property and passing on the property to the next generation," spokesperson Tina Wong said.

The demand for housing in the city has forced rental and real estate prices to skyrocket.

Dan and Maria Levin bought a small home in the 400 block of Lombard St. It has two units, each with one bedroom.

The person renting their other unit can't afford to move out. The only way is to pay them off - their attorney said it would cost more than $100,000.

"We want the extra unit for our family and friends because currently we have no room whatsoever in our one bedroom, small apartment and it would be great for when they come and visit," Maria Levin said.

"It's really an egregious transfer of some people's wealth to other people," Pacific Legal Foundation spokesperson J. David Breemer said.

A fair number of San Francisco homeowners are in a similar situation, except that the Levins are now suing the city to avoid paying any relocation money to their tenant.
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