In a hurried effort to respond to the affordability crisis facing renters, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the launch of the (SHIP) Safe Housing Inspection Program.
The SHIP will allow fire officials to make referrals to the Planning & Building Department about the habitability and life safety issues they see during routine fire inspections.
Anne Tamiko Omura, Executive Director, Eviction Defense Center said, “Too often we see low-income and working class families with young children suffering in silence with terrible housing conditions like pervasive mold, rodents, leaking plumbing and no heat. In a tight rental market, they fear that phoning in a complaint could render them homeless. Other tenants who are elderly, disabled, and/or have a language barrier may not only be fearful, but may also be unaware of how to voice a complaint.”
The program’s inspections will also include individual apartments. All landlords and tenants will be notified in advance of the inspections and permission will be needed from tenants to enter individual apartments said Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed.
Reed said after the fire inspectors make referrals the code enforcement inspectors will work with landlords to rectify problems. Landlords may not raise a tenant’s rent to cover the cost of fixing a violation. Compliant landlords who address the concerns in a timely fashion will not incur costs from follow-up inspections.
The SHIP will focus on 200 smaller buildings with six or more units and three or fewer stories in Oakland’s San Antonio/East Lake neighborhood where many lower-income and monolingual families may have faced barriers in navigating Oakland’s complaint-based system.
City Councilmember Abel Guillen said, “Many of these people are families with children paying as much as 70 percent of their incomes for rent.”
The SHIP created an additional staff position to also work with Alameda County Healthy Homes Department. Mayor Schaaf said she has assembled a Housing Cabinet to develop strategies that will convert and build needed housing.