Guest Column: James Vann on City Funding for Landlord Evictions

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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?!

http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/

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 
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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. ”

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