East Bay Housing Emergency at the Wellstone Club-April 28th

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Wellstone Club Schedules Round Table on Affordable Housing-Thursday, April 28th

The club meets this Thursday, Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, wheelchair access on 28th St. Discussion to start at 7pm, potluck precedes. All are welcome.

Anyone who reads the paper or has checked their twitter account lately, will know that the hot topic throughout Northern California-Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Alameda, San Jose, and even Lafayette, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa-is runaway rents. As city councils are inundated by demands to provide more affordable housing, they are also being implored to offer immediate relief from rent gouging and wholesale evictions.

Oakland and Richmond, once seen as the step children in Bay Area development, find themselves fighting for the “soul” of their cities where once blue-collar and white-collar workers rubbed elbows with artists, entrepreneurs and the new T-shirt-collar-tech workers. Sedate Alameda which rarely saw any kind of demonstration, now has rowdy council meetings and an organized, irate citizenry.

All of these cities struggle with housing budgets which were hollowed out by our governor’s destruction of redevelopment and the feds refusal to build anything that’s not a weapon of mass-or at least small scale-destruction. The available funds are not close to the need for safe, affordable housing in almost any NorCal city, [SoCal is also in a bind but that’s a whole other discussion] and low to middle income residents are not ready to move en masse to Bakersfield yet-though they may have to at some point.safe_image.php

The Wellstone Club and its partner the Block By Block Organizing Network, BBBON, joined with the Oakland Alliance and the John George Democratic Club under the The Post Newsgroup Salon this spring  to demand that the City Council of Oakland declare a State of Emergency and Moratorium on rent increases for 90 days while the city looked at specific solutions, noted here:http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/04/04/suggested-actions-protect-tenants-oakland/

At the same time the Citywide Displacement Network led by the Oakland Tenants’ Union demanded the city place the Renters’ Protection Upgrade measure on the ballot but without success but the Network is pushing on with a signature campaign to place it there in November.

Richmond, Alameda, and Berkeley are all working on numerous solutions, notably renters’ protection ordinances, bond measures to provide funds for new housing, condo conversion ordinances, public land for public good policies, and a push to repeal state laws that deny protections to tenants in newer buildings, among others. 2016-03-01 23.47.02 (448x640)

Representatives of these organizing efforts will come together-the East Bay Housing Organizations, the Oakland Tenants’ Union, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, The Berkeley Progressive Alliance, The Alameda Renters’ Coalition and the Oakland Alliance to brief the club and all interested parties on their efforts-how to join, support each other, learn from each other, and to organize region-wide towards long term, state solutions.

Please plan to attend, bring your friends, your organization, if not represented here, such as-small business and artist advocates who currently have few protections against the corporate gentrification of the neighborhoods they have invested in-and get ready to organize with the power of the not-so-silent majority in your cities, towns, counties and at the state house with us.

For more information, contact-Pamela Drake-pamleaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721

 

Oakland City Council Declares Emergency Over

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The Oakland City Council heard from housing rights/housing security activists tonight including some who demanded more city assistance for those who need it less. One council member was moved to declare that he wouldn’t be “appeasing the activists.” Since a tenant had suggested that war had been declared on those who can no longer afford the new rents, appeasement was avoided at all costs by the majority of the council.

Many poor beleaguered developers showed up toting back packs and looking distressed saying that they couldn’t possibly build in one of the most popular spots of the country if they were called on to donate a fraction of a percentage of their profits to mitigating the the wholesale removal of ordinary Oaklanders.

Gary Winkin-Bottom of upper Blackhawk said, “Who’s going to pay the move-out fees”…that the council might someday-possibly-impose, on-a-sliding-scale-to-a-few, long-deceased, drawn by lottery, suffering landowners-or at least their great grandchildren who may be reimbursed under certain circumstances to be detailed in rules to be determined at some undisclosed time and place  in closed session.[Yeah, they really almost said all this. If you don’t believe me, order a tape from KTOP and watch it, I dare you.]

Sometime around 11pm the city council got around to discussing all this in ever decreasing levels of arcane minutiae and vigorously disagreeing with each other.

But at the conclusion of this hard fought discussion for the withering soul of the city formerly known as Oakland, the council thanked the staff for vigorously misleading them and applauded each other for their courage in the face of activists who openly prayed for them. A good time was had by all except for one local advocate who missed an appointment emptying her cat’s litter box. Oh, the horror!

State of Emergency-75 Days and Counting

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Our Oakland City Council with the encouragement of 400 to 600 residents (estimates vary) last April 5th, finally agreed with what we have been saying for months-we are in an affordable housing crisis. Renters had hoped to breathe a sigh of relief and there is time for a brief respite, very brief.

Of course, this crisis can’t be resolved in 90 days but since we’re already off to a bad start, it looks like we’ll have to keep the pressure up.

At least the council is dealing with it. I really have no idea what the mayor is doing about the state of emergency. I guess watering down the previous mayor’s roadmap- maybe global warming has caught up with us already-is a plan?

But here we are, 15 days gone, 75 to go. We have not heard a response to our 12 recommended actions some of which could  improve the housing situation of our most vulnerable Oaklanders almost immediately. We do know that the City Council [CC] is barreling ahead with plans to impose the tiniest, tardiest impact fees in the area.

Impact fees are those most municipalities collect to put into an affordable housing fund or funds for other impacts such as transportation costs and park improvements. Developers coming to Oakland have been expecting these to be imposed for over a year now. They know how they work since most surrounding cities have already imposed them.

Based on my quick calculations-Alameda has the lowest impact fees at $18,000 per unit of housing but they also have inclusionary zoning-requirements to build a percentage of a project as permanently affordable. Berkeley, which also has inclusionary zoning and has charged impact fees for years, is busy raising theirs to $30k or even $34,000 in some cases, and Emeryville raised theirs to $28,000 last year.

Despite the study the city was required to do which recommended at least $20k per unit, our council has asked for $5500 per unit plus some transportation impact fees which raises them to the grand total of $7000 per unit, about 25% to 30% of what other cities have already been charging-this in the city which has hit 4th place in the race to be the highest cost for rental housing in the country.

Additionally, the city has decided to raise the level of affordability, meaning the level at which renters and even buyers can get housing assistance from (top level) 80% to 110% of median income or up to $110,000 per family.

They also want to transfer some of the money in the affordable housing fund to mortgage assistance, from renters homes to ownership which would reduce the numbers of people housed overall. For more on this see, https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/04/18/18785341.php

We know the middle class needs help in this housing market and we know they are important; but with very limited funds and the CC unwilling to impose much more, how can we justify ignoring the needs of the lowest income, most vulnerable people-single moms, seniors, and many of  the original Black and Brown residents of this city.

Okay, there’s more. The Citywide Displacement Network took the Renters’ Protection Initiative to the Rules Committee on April 7th requesting that the CC agendize the measure a pathway to putting it on the ballot. The CC can put it directly on the ballot themselves and save the community thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a campaign that could force the CC to place it on November’s ballot anyway.

You would almost think that the city mothers and fathers did not want to give the people of Oakland, 60% of whom are renters, the chance to vote for these protections??? Now due to the Council’s odd (?!) delay, it will not come before them until the same time as the petitions for the initiative will (almost) be due. SIGH! 2016-04-19 00.27.05

There are members of the CC who really want to assist folks who need housing security. I’m not going to dismiss them all as callous but I am going to ask that some of them get out in front on this. You know who you are! The time for leadership is almost past-only righteous anger and utter hopelessness can follow if you do not.

The CC, maybe even the mayor, should be seriously considering the 12 recommended actions that were part of the Emergency Declaration. Here’s just a couple in no particular order:

  • require owners to file petitions with the Rent board instead of the other way around. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is a longstanding demand/request/need.
  • make it illegal for owners to deny receiving payments from tenants when they are paying on time and in compliance with their rental agreements. (crazy ask but some landlords are doing this!)
  • require that at least 5% of units be available to households at 15% to 30% AMI (5%… too much??)
  • Here’s another doozy-establish a program to punish discrimination based on Section 8 as a source of income. Some of those people you see in tents under bridges or just under trees have Section 8 vouchers that they can’t use.
  • Here are the rest- http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/04/04/suggested-actions-protect-tenants-oakland/

Add to these actions my favorites-make sure you vote for a Democrat for President and lobby your legislators early and often to provide funding and bills that make it easier to build and maintain housing for all our folks.

Let your council member know you are counting the days and ask for a full report on what s/he has been doing during this emergency AND how you can help.

 

BBBON, Wellstone Support Emergency Measure, Moratorium

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For Immediate Release
Statement on Housing Emergency Ordinance

Oakland, CA: The Block by Block Organizing Network and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club today announce support for City Council President Lynette McElhaney’s proposals to Declare a Housing State of Emergency and impose a moratorium on rent increases above the CPI granted by the existing rent ordinance and on no fault evictions for tenants under the Just Cause Ordinance, including extensive rehabs.

We applaud the John George Club, the Oakland Alliance, and the Oakland Tenants’ Union for taking these demands, which we began making in November of 2015, and converting them into an ordinance-all of our grassroots organizing efforts coalesced as a result of the Oakland Post Salon -but we see this as just the first step of solving the ongoing crisis.

Housing experts say that an estimated 44,000 units will not be covered by these measures. Our city must develop a fund that can aid these tenants and homeowners at risk of displacement. We might start by demanding that banks- which get city business-help fund such a need since they do not now provide loans or other services to the majority of Oakland neighborhoods. We should also consider passing an Eviction Registry so that we know whether evictions are legal and what we can do to prevent them.

Additionally, our organizations will work with Oakland city leaders and other cities to demand that the outdated Costa-Hawkins law, which exempts more recently built housing from renter protections, be reversed by the state legislature.

We know that tenants are being evicted against the law, sometimes with the help of the city bureaucracy. For instance, when tenants have paid rent for years while living in a warehouse that did not meet city standards, shouldn’t the city have some responsibility to work with the tenants before red tagging the building and issuing them a last minute eviction as they did at 1919 Market Street?

There is much more work to be done-passing adequate impact fees similar to other bay area cities, not adjusting affordability levels to accommodate higher income residents before providing for those in the most need, strengthening condo conversion laws now, and increasing the percentage of boomerang funding available to build affordable housing. Providing a timeline for these and other items already noted in the Housing Equity Roadmap is paramount, and we will be asking for that timeline at the City Council tonight.

Contact: Pamela Drake, 510-593-3721 or Sharon Rose-510-915-6894