The City of Alameda has been in the spotlight in the past few weeks after it declared a housing crisis state of emergency, which includes a temporary freeze on rent increases and blocks evictions.
But the Oakland City Council appears to be unwilling to follow the path that Alameda is treading.
The Oakland Post sent questions to the mayor and all eight city council members this week, asking if they would support a housing state of emergency.
Most of the councilmembers did not reply to the questions. Those who did reply did not speak in favor of calling a housing state of emergency in Oakland.
The Post also asked the officials if they were willing take other immediate actions to slow down the displacement tidal wave, including backing a housing development impact fee, which would be used to support affordable housing, strengthening rent control so it would have teeth to protect tenants from huge rent increases and imposing relocation or other fees on landlords who evict tenants.
Here are the responses to the questions:.
Councilmember Dan Kalb said:
“I strongly support efforts to make sure the City Council prioritizes the construction of lower- and moderate- income housing, including housing for families.
“I’m certainly fine with additional market rate housing as well, but I want to put an emphasis on the lower and moderate income portions of the spectrum. We need some type of inclusionary housing requirement for ownership housing, and I intend to put forward legislation on this.
“I am proud to have been the author of the landmark ordinance that helps protect tenants from harassment, including prohibiting attempts to influence a tenant to vacate via intimidation or coercion. We need to make sure that this law is fully implemented and enforced.
“I support instituting a requirement that requires landlords to submit applications for any rental increase beyond the annual cost-of-living increase that is already allowed.
“I support instituting a meaningful development impact fee to fund affordable housing efforts in our city.
“I am taking the lead role on two anti-displacement strategies in the recently adopted Oakland Housing Equity Roadmap. One of them is the seismic safety ordinance for apartment buildings slated to come to the Council in January 2016.
“Another ordinance that I have been working is condominium conversion legislation that will better protect renters from displacement.”
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said:
“Oakland has a real affordable housing crisis. We must do more than just admit that we have a 2housing problem, we must also take action to solve it. That is why I have been working hard to pass real actions to stop the wave of displacement and protect and expand affordable housing.
“This includes recently winning funding for enforcement of tenant’s rights laws, so we don’t have so many people being displaced. Thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Brooks and myself, along with a grassroots coalition, we were able to get this funding passed despite resistance.
“Now I am continuing to work for stronger relocation assistance laws, improving the rent board, an affordable housing impact fee and other strategies. My proposals to expand relocation assistance will be coming to the City Council in the coming month.”
Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office responses:
“On Dec 8 the City Council voted in favor of Mayor Schaaf and Councilmember Abel Guillen’s proposal to declare a shelter crisis. The measure will give the city more flexibility in interpreting and applying various building, housing, land use and habitability requirements in order to provide more housing for the homeless population.”
On the question of strengthening rent control, the mayor’s office said, “Property ownership and management encompasses many financial responsibilities which need to be factored and balanced in order to respond thoughtfully to this question. There have been good discussions at the Housing Cabinet about various revisions and amendments to the City’s renter protection and rent adjustment regulations. These are being considered by the Housing Cabinet and will be presented to the City Council early next year.”
Her office said the mayor supports impact fees that would go exclusively to creating affordable housing. “The City Council has previously authorized an impact fee study and there are categories of fees being considered: affordable housing, transportation and other infrastructure including parks, libraries, storm drains, etc.
“The staff report for this matter will be available this week, well before the Council discusses it in January.”
On the issue of charging landlords fees s for tenant evictions, her office said:
There are various proposals for increasing relocation fees and eviction fees, as well as broadening when such fees apply. These proposals are scheduled for discussion sometime early next year.
Also being discussed, the mayor’s office said, are “an increase in the renter assistant program fee, potential seismic retrofit requirements for soft story rental buildings, eviction/relocation fees and Ellis Act fees.
“City staff will be compiling this information in the next few weeks.”
The council members who did not respond to the Post’s questions were: Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Desley Brooks , Anne Campbell Washington, Larry Reid, Noel Gallo and Abel Guillen.