There is near universal agreement that Oakland is in a housing crisis and that action must be taken quickly to prevent the town from being San Franciso-ized, turning into a city that has lost its long term residents, diversity and culture, and caters to upscale, condominium dwellers.
What is not so clear is what the mayor and City Council plan to do about the crisis and whether they will act in time to halt the displacement of people who make Oakland the place that it is.
To answer these questions, the Post requested that each City Councilmember and Mayor Libby Schaaf submit a statement on what they are proposing to do immediately to stop the mass displacement of Oakland’s long-term residents.
The focus is not on long-term, comprehensive solutions or the need for more affordable housing, rather what Oakland’s elected officials are going to do right now keep residents in their homes.
Some are estimating the city is losing close to 1,000 residents per month.
How councilmembers respond to the crisis could impact their reelection prospects, since this month marks one year before city elections in November 2016.
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan told the Post she will work to amend laws to improve relocation assistance for tenants who have been wrongfully displaced. Her proposal to City Council will “increase the amount of money tenants receive and make the requirements more consistent.”
This item will come to the CED Committee on Dec. 15.
Councilmember Desley Brooks said she will propose that the city redirect some of its affordable housing construction dollars to make property acquisitions.
“New construction takes two to five years to build,” said Brooks. “If we purchase already built buildings and cap the rents, we can help Oaklanders stay in place.”
Councilmember Anne Campbell-Washington says she is planning on immediately strengthening tenant protections by addressing bad faith evictions and evictions of long-term residents.
Council President Lynette McElhaney told the Post that she would lead the effort to expand tenant protections in 2016 by revising the relocation assistance requirements and providing proactive health and safety inspections of rental units so that people don’t have to fear landlord retaliation.
McElhaney also said she will be proposing regulations on short-term rentals like AirBnB “so that people aren’t pushed out of their units to make room for make-shift hotels and protect low-income residents of single room occupancy hotels.”
Councilmembers Abel Guillen and Campbell-Washington both said they are working on acquiring a funding source for building both market-rate and affordable housing in Oakland.
They are working on a regional housing bond that “leverages local dollars with state/federal opportunities to pay for housing on the scale that Oakland needs,” according to Guillen.
Mayor Schaaf told the Post she is proposing to the City Council an increase in landlord fees for tenant protection.
The city’s past actions to support local residents have included the enactment of Measure FF—Oakland’s minimum wage measure, launching a Safe Housing Inspection Program that “takes the burden off residents to report unsafe living conditions,” and providing tax incentives for private landlords who partner with non-profit building management to preserve rental units for “moderate income” tenants.
Further, the city council recently passed the Housing Equity Roadmap, which recommends policies meant to curb displacement such as enforcing existing tenant protection laws.
Meanwhile, there are currently several long-term housing proposals that are pending or under review by the city council that will be addressed by the end of the year.
These include establishing impact fees for each new market-rate unit built that would go toward affordable housing construction, tightening the condo conversion laws for about 29,000 units in two-to-four unit buildings and a Public Land Use Policy that would prioritize affordable housing.
Councilmembers Larry Reid, Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo have not yet responded to the Post’s questions.