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Gay SF senior faces rent hike

by Seth Hemmelgarn

A gay San Francisco senior is worried he'll become homeless after his rent increased dramatically when his landlord terminated a federal housing program contract.


Ramon Garcia, 81, who's lived in his Noe Valley apartment for 16 years, said, "This is not about evicting me, it's about wanting to convert this into a condo, and since there's no humanity in this landlord, it doesn't matter. I will become homeless."


Garcia received a 90-day notice dated December 27 that said his landlord, Paul Winer, was terminating his contract with the San Francisco Housing Authority under the Federal Housing Choice Voucher program that subsidized Garcia's rent. The notice said that after March 31, Garcia's portion of the rent would go from $206 to $1,737.


The notice cites the Housing Authority's "failure to perform" under the contract's terms. Problems included "unexplained and unjustified holds of subsidy payments over 60 days," the notice said.


Garcia, who said Winer verbally promised him that he wants to convert his Sanchez Street apartment, added that he hasn't been able to sleep.


"I'm just too devastated to leave the house," he said.


Even if there were a place for him to move to, he said, he wouldn't physically be able to pack up his belongings.


Brad Hirn, who works with the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee, said that Garcia didn't approach his organization until mid-May, and by then, he'd already missed at least one payment of the higher rent.


Hirn said that Winer's filed an unlawful detainer complaint, and a court hearing was set for Wednesday. The Bay Area Reporter couldn't immediately locate court records related to the case.


In a news release, HRC said Garcia has "lifelong chronic conditions requiring daily bed rest, frequent medical appointments, and specific orthopedic equipment already setup in his apartment," and the situation has worsened Garcia's "depression and fragile physical health."


HRC said Winer's contract termination indicates that he wants a tenancy-in-common "sale and eventual condo conversion, as other units on the lot have already been sold as TICs." A TIC allows two or more people ownership interest in a property. The news release says local TIC "expert" Anthony Koutsos is working with Winer.


HRC points to a September 2015 San Francisco Planning Department variance decision that the housing nonprofit said denies a proposal to sub-divide the Sanchez Street lot "for ease of financial ownership and faster condo conversion notes the potential loss in rent-controlled housing and 'misuse of the zoning code to circumvent other existing City regulations and resolve financial disputes among owners.'"


Winer and Koutsos didn't respond to interview requests. A legal staffer at the Housing Authority didn't respond to a phone message from the B.A.R.


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