This guest blog by noted Tenants’ Rights activist, James Vann, is in reference to a proposed program loosely defined in Council Member Lynette McElhaney’s press release, the body of which is posted below the column. I have edited his piece for brevity and clarity.
Here’s some background on the origin of this funding [estimated at $300k] which will provide loans to landlords who evict long-term tenants. These are tenants who now have the right to relocation fees due to the hardship of displacement. I’ll leave it up to the reader as to what extent this funding redefines spin, irony and general what-the-heckism?!
City Council Member McElhaney Advances a Landlord-Written Tenant-Eviction Plan Funded by State Anti-displacement Grants
At the end of a 4-1/2 hour Community and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Council Member McElhaney rushed a plan to provide “no-interest” city loans (and/or grants) to small property owners by an exhausted 3-person committee. The objectionable plan would enable and assist owners of duplexes and triplexes to evict longtime tenants from their homes of up to 20 or 30 years. The hastily developed proposal — for which McElhaney somehow recruited Council Member Rebecca Kaplan as a co-sponsor — was framed by landlord advisers to McElhaney –with no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal prior to its introduction at the Community and Economic Development Committee at its Tuesday meeting.
Oakland has a “Just Cause” ordinance that prohibits the eviction of tenants without cause except in the case of owner move-ins to include family members who displace existing tenants in duplexes and tri-plexes up to five units. In response to that loophole, the City also recently adopted an ordinance that requires these owners to pay significant relocation fees to tenants who may be evicted, due to no fault of their own. These evictions also result in removing these units from the Just Cause prohibition against no-fault eviction. While the right of such owners and certain relatives to occupy their property is acknowledged, tenants, who have done nothing wrong but are inconvenienced and evicted by their owners and must search for a replacement home, must still be compensated by the occupying owners.
What CM McElhaney has proposed is actually “an incentive” for small property owners to get long-standing tenants out of their homes, and, in the process, have the city pay for the eviction. Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by the city, so many of these evicting owners will only pretend to occupy, but may never actually live in the unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices — a deception that the city will likely never discover. Many of these no-interest “so-called loans” will actually become grants of public money because the owners will plead low-income, refuse to pay, resell their property, or even put their homes into reverse mortgages. These evicting owners will not be required to make a down payment nor matching payments, they simply apply to the city and the full cost of the tenants’ eviction and relocation cost is paid for them — making the city the “Evictor-In-Chief.”
This flawed, ill-thought-out ordinance was advanced to City Council by the unanimous vote of Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Anne Campbell-Washington who joined with Lynette McElhaney. As so often happens in committees and even at city council, despite the fact that obvious weaknesses in the proposed legislation were pointed out in detail, not one of the council members bothered to even ask any questions.
James E Vann, Co-Founder
Oakland Tenants Union
Press Release: “Committee Strengthens Anti-Displacement Efforts”
“McElhaney and Kaplan Advance Amendment to Help Low-Income Owners Support Tenant Relocation
On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee unanimously approved the establishment of a city loan program to help distressed low-income homeowners advance required tenant relocation funds. Under the amendment advanced by Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan, the City will make available no interest loans to fund required tenant relocation payments for cash-strapped homeowners seeking to return to their homes. To qualify, owners must meet a strict set of criteria including:
- Own 5 or fewer units
- Be low-income or have less than 6 months of financial reserves
- Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and
- Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate
“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our City, especially of African American and other low income legacy owners,” said Councilmember McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”
This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms. These payments may pose a hardship for low income and low asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives.
The Ordinance will be heard by the full City Council at its next meeting on July 10. ”