Speakers at January’s Post Salon examined what Oaklanders as a community can do to solve one of the largest crises facing the city: out-of-control rent increases and evictions that are driving families out of their homes at an alarming rate.
Underscoring the critical need for immediate action, a recently released report found that the Oakland area has the largest rental increases in the nation, nearly doubling since 2011.
Carroll Fife, moderator of the Jan. 24 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle and co-chair of the Oakland Alliance, said the question confronting the community is what can tangibly be done right away to relieve the market pressure on renters and low-income home owners – while there are still Black, Latino and other low-income residents who live in Oakland to address these issues.
She said the city report, the “Housing Equity Roadmap,” contains important elements for what can be done, but nothing will happen in time without a sense of urgency.
“Many organizations are fighting the issue of displacement, but the question is whether our leaders have the political will to combat the problem,” she said. “This is an election year, and around election time, candidates tend to have a little more political will. I think that’s something we can leverage.”
She said the city should declare an immediate temporary housing state of emergency, freezing rents and halting evictions, similar to what was done in Alameda. During that time, the city council should pass ordinances that protect the 60 percent of Oaklanders who are renters and other low-income residents.
Brytanee Brown and Tia Hicks of the East 12th Street Coalition spoke about their coalition’s successful fight for “public land for public good,” blocking the city council’s attempt to sell public land at Lake Merritt to a market rate housing developer.
They said they created a community process to propose an affordable housing development at the site and are working with a developer on the proposal. The city has not yet decided which project it favors.
Between 1999 and 2014, over 70 percent of the housing in Oakland was built for people with incomes of over $100,000 a year, said Brown.
“People want to own their own homes, public land should be used for public good and above all, we want a government that is transparent” and engages with the community, she said.
James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union said his organization is working to put rent control on the ballot for the November election.
“We need the city council to declare a housing state of emergency, with a moratorium on rent increases and evictions,” Vann said. “There are many things we can do to address this issue, but the Oakland City Council has not done it in 35 years.”
Steve King, executive director of the Oakland Community Land Trust, and Robert Maurice Arnold, a management consultant with experience in land trusts, discussed what the city can do to make homes more affordable and protect property from the housing market.
“A community land trust removes land from the speculative market to serve lowincome people in perpetuity,” said King, explaining that the method “grew out of the Civil Rights Movement in the South in Georgia in 1960, as a way to support African American farmers, as opposed to sharecropping.”
Arnold said the central principle of the land trust is to take ownership of land out of the market and to place it in a nonprofit organization.
“The land is forever owned by the community and is taken off the speculative market,” he said. “The community itself can decide who can build on the land for affordable housing, community farms, businesses or nonprofit organizations.”
People will own what is built on the land, but not the land itself, he said.