Public housing

Oakland signals support for tenants, sending public housing measure to November ballot

Voters will decide to fund up to 13,000 new low-cost social housing units to address the city’s growing housing and homelessness crisis.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Whether Oakland should get an exemption to seek funding for up to 13,000 new low-rent public housing units will go to voters in November, city leaders decided Tuesday. .

The Oakland City Council took several steps Tuesday to address a growing housing and homelessness crisis. The city has seen a 24% increase in homelessness since 2019, and nearly two out of three people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered, living outdoors or in tents or vehicles.

Council member Carroll Fife has suggested seeking funding for up to 13,000 new low-cost social housing units, which must go through the voting process. Section 34 of the state constitution requires proposed low-income housing projects to be approved by a majority of local voters.

Fife pushed last week to cap rent increases at 3% this year to prevent a 6.7% increase, the biggest allowed in the town’s history, at which council members Noel Gallo and Loren Taylor opposed.

This action received a second vote of approval from the city council, and the proposal for large amounts of state-funded housing will head to the ballot for voters to decide.

“In a city where 60% of residents are renters, a large majority of whom are burdened with rent, access to low-income and ultra-low-income housing is critical to ensuring that more Oakland residents are not facing homelessness,” Fife wrote. .

Oakland’s housing component progress report for 2020 showed the city only met 43% of its regional housing need allocation targets for ultra-low-income housing and 25% for low income housing. Fife said about 13,000 units are needed to close Oakland’s shortfall in low-income and very low-income housing by 2031.

Fife quoted a Article from the Los Angeles Times about the roots of Section 34 in Eureka, California, as a way for residents to oppose their housing authority’s efforts to use federal funds for low-income housing development.

“Section 34 was intended to maintain the status quo of housing segregation after the passage of the Federal Housing Act in 1949, which prohibited explicit racial segregation in public housing,” Fife wrote.

She added that this has been a barrier to the development of state-funded low-cost housing across the state.

“In order for us to meet our housing goals for those most in need, we need to create an exemption for the City of Oakland to create these units,” she wrote.

Fife’s proposal has garnered the support of Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and Council Chairman Nikki Fortunato Bas. It passed unanimously.

The city has also approved the creation of a rent registry, such as near San Jose, Berkeley and Richmond, as another way to expand the enforcement of rent control and protections for tenants. This order, establishing an annual requirement for landlords of controlled rental units to report rent and tenant information and provide evidence of rent registration compliance when filing rent increase applications, received unanimous support.

City leaders also adopted Kaplan’s request to declare a local emergency due to the homelessness crisis and endorsed the “Home Together 2026” plan to reduce homelessness and reduce racial disparities among residents. homeless by 2026.

Many landlords at Tuesday’s meeting spoke out against the 3% rent cap, saying it will affect local small business owners more than large business owners. But others said the city needs to do more to prevent homelessness.

“I was stunned to see how the city opposed the housing projects,” said Ari Pomerantz, criticizing Oakland’s construction department, which she says is creating confusing and costly processes that will perpetuate the homelessness.

Iris Starr said the declared homelessness emergency “is great in words, but nothing has been done.”

“The people of Oakland have survived many years of these ‘homeless’ conditions,” Starr said. “They continue to be rejected as human beings… treated as if they don’t deserve to be cared for, and continue to be further marginalized and punished.”

In addition to capping rent increases, another city ordinance requiring landlords to pay relocation costs for evicted tenants through no fault of their own survived Supreme Court review Monday.

That order was challenged by Bay Area property rights advocates and conservative organizations on behalf of an Air Force couple who rented their home to another family as they was on the east coast and later picked up the property upon returning to Oakland. The Court upheld the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ finding that Oakland has the right to regulate owners’ use of their land as a business.

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