By James E Vann
Oakland’s present rental and affordable housing crisis — which is particularly catastrophic for renters — is not new. Since the late 1970s, crisis conditions have been acknowledged by successive city councils.
Unfortunately, the distinguishing characteristic of the Oakland City Council, today and in previous times, has been that hearing after hearing and proposal upon proposal, the City Council has almost never taken appropriate action.
The crisis has reached catastrophic proportions, and there are many potential actions the council should consider immediately:
1. Enact immediately a resolution declaring a “State of Emergency” in rental housing with moratoriums on rent increases and no-cause evictions until effective protections for tenants are put in place.
2. Rescind and immediately replace Oakland’s current landlord-written Rent Adjustment Program with a proven Rent Control program. This change would virtually eliminate tenant petitions and workload backups and would finally establish equity and fairness in tenants/landlord relations.
3. Establish a cost to evict. Charge landlords $500 for each no cause, owner convenience, or “cash for keys buy-out” eviction; and $200 for each for-cause eviction. Use fees for a fund to assist tenant hardships due to the disruption of moving and relocation.
4. Require mandatory mediation between landlords and tenants be integral to the existing filing of three-day, seven-day and 30-day notices of “intent to evict” — and prior to filing “Unlawful Detainers.”
5. Implement immediately a stand-alone housing only impact fee of at least $20,000 for each unit in new residential developments, and for each 5,000 square feet of nonresidential development. Deposit fees in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
6. Strictly conform to the policy of “Public Land for Public Good.” Prioritize nonprofit housing developers for construction of affordable housing on appropriate city-owned lands.
7. Define “affordable housing” to require inclusion of at least five percent of units to be available to households at 15 percent to 30 percent of an area’s median income.
8. Require uniform compensation for each of the city’s four programs that authorize eviction, in addition to evictions caused by owner-elective improvements. Assure adequate compensation for evicted households for costs of moving, relocation, and resettlement.
9. Immediately implement the Condominium Conversion Ordinance, which already has been thoroughly reviewed and legally vetted but remains mysteriously stalled in City Council.
10. Enact the provisions of the Tenant Protection Ordinance, which were stripped by City Council from the ordinance at the time of its adoption in 2014.
11. Make it illegal for owners to deny receiving tenant rent payments. This ploy is used to evict innocent tenants.
12. Establish a fee for property speculation. The current practice of flipping rental properties creates enormous unmerited profits. The City should assess a two percent speculation fee of the sales price for any transaction that occurs within three years of a previous transfer.
13. Fund homeless housing and services programs with proceeds from speculation assessments.
14. Accumulate, land bank, and stockpile city-owned, purchased, surplused, or tax-forfeited properties to benefit affordable housing.
15. Lease stockpiled residential land and properties, or provide at no or low cost to the Oakland Community Land Trust, the only type of new housing that remains permanently affordable and within the financial capability of Oakland residents.
16. Stockpile city industrial and warehouse buildings suitable for conversion and low-cost lease as artists’ coops or for low-cost sales to Oakland artists.
17. Provide an option to developers of making 20 percent of proposed units affordable or, alternatively to pay an equitable “in-lieu” fee of at least $200,000 per unit into the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund for each new market-rate housing unit.
18. Establish hardship rental assistance for seniors and households on fixed income. Require that CPI and other prospective increases be held in suspension by landlords until a future date. Consider limiting to 50 percent approved pass-thru rent increases to tenants who have resided in their units for ten or more years.
19. Help tenants purchase homes or condominiums by designating a part of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund for matching grants for tenants who desire to make a shared purchase, and who agree to restrict the price at resale.
20. Monitor owner move-in evictions within the first two years to identify owner ploys and deceptions, carried out with intent to evict existing tenants. When deceptions are found, the City Attorney should sue for triple punitive damages for city and tenant, in addition to reimbursing losses to the tenant.