We know you don’t always watch the little news video reports we embed in these posts, but you really ought to watch the CBS 5 report above on homeowners scamming the system and renting out Below Market Rate housing units illegally. “Get away! Get! Get! Get away!” shouts one woman as she is busted at a residence other than the one she was granted by San Francisco’s Below Market Rate (BMR) Ownership Program. “Stop recording. I’m going to call my attorney right now,” says another, found in Redwood City though she rents out her BMR condo at the Embarcadero. The illegal renting of BMR units has long been a problem, and CBS 5’s Susie Steimle does some fantastic journalist pounding of the pavement to find several homeowners who’d been awarded low-cost BMR housing, but were advertising these units as rentals on Airbnb and Craigslist in violation of the law.
The “Get away! Get! Get! Get away!” lady is Margarita Popova, whose BMR condo was advertised on Craigslist for $3,100 a month. But CBS 5 found her at her home in the avenues, at which neighbors confirmed she’s lived for years.
In the tony Redwood City suburb of Emerald Hills, they found Caroline Novak owner of a BMR condo at the Embarcadero. “I am just staying here, for a couple days,” Novak told CBS 5.
Even the despised and sinking Millennium Tower pops up in this report! Not because a BMR on that property is being illegally rented (to our knowledge), but because Millennium Tower resident Amy Gussin has her BMR program-awarded condo on New Montgomery Street available on Airbnb for $149 a night. Gussin owns additional properties in New York, Beijing, and Los Angeles, so you’ve got to wonder how she qualified for this program.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera is currently prosecuting three cases of BMR homes being illegally rented out, and served notices of complaint to the three named in CBS 5’s reporting. The mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development says they're investigating roughly of these 40 cases citywide.
Perhaps the most notorious of these is the case of Greg Garver, who bought a BMR unit at the SOMA Grand for $221,698 in 2008. He’s alleged to have rented the place illegally for $2,400 a month, then attempted to increase the rent last year to $18,000 a month (!!!) before moving in himself, then moving back out and renting it again. In his prosecution of this case, Dennis Herrera also noted, “Garver’s dogs would lunge at other residents, and on at least two occasions, video footage captured Garver training the dogs in the hallway of the building to attack and bite an associate. “
CBS 5 notes that the only way most of these affordable housing scofflaws are caught is when neighbors report them. Maybe that’s why Garver was training the dogs to attack.