• Battle with Slumlord Kaussen (3)

  • Code Enforcement & Building Safety (9)

    Improving living conditions for tenants has long been part of THC’s core mission. In December 1982 we worked with Warren Hinckle of the SF Chronicle to expose the heatless hotel crisis in SRO hotels. The story brought local and national media attention to the scandal and led to the passage of tough new heat and hot water laws. A larger problem was evident: San Francisco’s Bureau of Building Inspection refused to enforce the housing code and did not punish landlords for flagrantly violating it. THC led a citywide campaign to expose the lack of code enforcement. This led to our sponsoring with the Residential Builders Association (RBA) of a ballot measure creating a new department and commission. Passed by voters in November 1994, the Commission adopted the nation’s toughest code enforcement procedures by 1995. San Francisco is now a national leader on housing code enforcement.
  • Eviction Defense (6)

    THC has provided eviction defense services since our founding in 1980. For over a decade we provided the in-pro per eviction assistance citywide that is now performed by the Eviction Defense Collaborative. THC attorneys have handled San Francisco’s most high-profile Ellis Act and owner-move in cases over the past three decades and have stopped every single plan for mass eviction of tenants from SRO hotels.
  • Galvin Apartments (6)

    In 2003, THC worked out a plan with the Residential Builders Association and developer Joe Cassidy to revise an approved project for 172 live-work condos at Fourth and Freelon in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. The project had no affordable units. The new plan gave Cassidy a thirty-five-foot height increase in exchange for building 15% of the square footage (the city’s inclusionary housing rate at the time) of the market rate project as affordable housing off-site. This resulted in Cassidy building a 56-unit apartment building at 785 Brannan and giving it to THC free and clear. THC named the building after longtime ally and fellow activist, Sister Bernie Galvin.
  • Homelessness Programs: Modified Payment Program (10)

    Homelessness became a crisis in San Francisco around 1982. The city responded by using SRO hotels—the last affordable homes for low-income residents—for 1-3 night stays for the unhoused. As a result, these “hotline hotels” eliminated the last housing in the city that single adults on welfare could afford. THC fought for years to stop the hotline program and urged then-Mayor Art Agnos and his team to replace the hotline program with a Modified Payment Program (MPP). The MPP enabled welfare recipients to get housing at much lower rents by having rent paid through a third party. The city told THC that it should be the third party, even though at the time THC was strictly a law office. We agreed to take on the challenge. By early 1990 the hotline program had been almost entirely replaced by THC’s MPP, which provided long-term permanent housing at below market rents.
  • Illegal Conversions (12)

    THC has led efforts to protect San Francisco SRO Hotels and tenants since our founding in 1980. We spent years trying to strengthen the city’s 1981 Hotel Conversion Ordinance and finally succeeded in 1990. We soon obtained injunctions against over 25 law-breaking hotels.
  • Local Housing & Tenant Advocacy (3)

  • Master Lease Housing (4)

    When San Francisco’s economy began improving in 1995, rents in Modified Payment Program hotels rose beyond the welfare grant. Tenants were priced out of the market and the situation worsened with the start of the dot com boom in 1997. THC thought the city should lease hotels and we brokered the first two city master leases. But the challenge was that no nonprofit housing groups wanted to enter the leasing business, so if THC wanted to keep welfare and SSI recipients housed, we had to become the landlord. THC ultimately became the city’s leading provider of housing for single adults.
  • National Housing Advocacy (30)

    In 1999, THC founded Housing America, a project designed to increase federal funding for affordable housing. Housing America teamed up with the Boston-based Doc4Kids to release a national study “There’s No Place Like Home–How America’s Housing Crisis Threatens Our Kids.” The study focused on the health, education, and economic impacts of the housing affordability crisis and received nationwide publicity. Housing America followed this by joining with National People’s Action and Center for Community Change in a campaign to create a National Housing Trust Fund. THC Director Randy Shaw co-authored a study showing how FHA surpluses could fund the Trust Fund, which passed years later. Housing America also partnered with Religious Witness with Homeless People in a National Religious Call to Action on Housing. Religious Witness leader Sister Bernie Galvin organized the largest group of religious leaders ever to weigh in on a housing issue; the Clinton Administration credited our efforts as helping secure 50,000 additional Section 8 vouchers from Congress. In 2000, Housing America also partnered with Religious Witness With Homeless People on a sign-on letter from over 400 religious leaders in support of allocating $5 billion in FHA surpluses to affordable housing. In order to boost national organizing efforts, THC created Justicecorps, a project that recruited college students into full-time organizing jobs. Many of those we selected went on to long-time organizing careers.
  • Public Policy (8)

    THC was very involved in the vast majority of tenant protection laws passed from 1982 for the next three decades. THC led and primarily funded the historic Prop H campaign in 1992, which cut annual rent increases by more than half. It has resulted in the biggest transfer of wealth from landlords to tenants of any ballot measure in the nation’s history. THC also worked to prevent the cost of city bonds from being unfairly “passed through” to tenants, even successfully suing the city to stop this. We fought for laws requiring mailboxes and sprinklers in SRO hotels and for laws strengthening eviction protections. We also got a law passed requiring tenants get notification of building permit applications in order to stop evictions due to unnecessary renovations.
  • Revitalizing the Tenderloin (2)

    THC has always viewed its mission as being inclusive not only of conditions tenants face inside their homes, but also of conditions tenants face outside their homes. As such, THC has been involved in efforts to get residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood the same level of public safety as those living in other neighborhoods. The articles in this category describe some of the strategies THC used to achieve this goal, which remains ongoing. THC has also worked to preserve the neighborhood’s rich history. THC was a major funder of the Tenderloin Museum and was the applicant for the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District. THC also helped get historic plaques placed on over 100 buildings in the neighborhood, along with “Lost Landmark” plaques for Compton’s Cafeteria and other historic places.
  • THC’s Early Years (11)

    THC was founded by Hastings Law School students, including now-Executive Director Randy Shaw. We opened on February 1, 1980, in a 70 sq. ft. office at GLIDE. We were an all-volunteer operation. Our rent and office expenses were covered by small foundation grants and allocations from Hastings’ student groups. By 1982 we essentially ran out of money to pay rent and were offered a free space previously used as a storage room at the North of Market Planning Coalition at 295 Eddy Street. Randy Shaw secured a Berkeley Law Foundation grant that enabled him to start as THC’s first fulltime employee in September 1982. A combination of CDBG grants and lawsuit revenue kept THC solvent for many years.