State of Emergency-75 Days and Counting

2016-04-19 00.32.18

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.

 

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