The availability of affordable housing throughout the United States, and the world, is on the decline. This is especially true in cities and towns with a shortage of rental housing and high prices, particularly college towns. In an effort to preserve affordable housing, on June 3, 2019, San Francisco adopted the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) conferring upon “Qualified Nonprofits” a first right to purchase real property in San Francisco improved with three or more residential rental units (whether or not the property also includes non-residential uses) and property on which three or more residential units could be or are being built (all such lots or buildings will be referred to hereafter as a “multi-family residential building”). The first right to purchase consists of both a right of first offer as well as a right of first refusal. A multi-family residential building acquired by a Qualified Nonprofit under COPA must be maintained as rent-restricted affordable housing in perpetuity.

While such legislation is new to California, similar legislation has been enacted in other jurisdictions. For example, Paris, a city that for some time has had a shortage of affordable housing for lower and middle income families, adopted a right of pre-emption law known as the “droit de preemption urbain” or “DPU”. The DPU now applies throughout France. Under the DPU, the Mayor’s Office is allowed the first right to purchase many different types of property, whether vacant or not. Tenants also are allowed to purchase certain types of existing residential properties and farmers are granted special rights in relation to rural areas. As a practical matter, the Mayor’s Office only purchases the property where it is required for development purposes, including public works or leisure facilities. The scope of the French pre-emption law, or DPU, is quite broad and its requirements are specific and diverse.

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