Oakland is considering passing regulations to protect residential hotels for low- and very-low income residents.
“Increasingly, speculative real estate investors have begun to target Oakland’s residential hotels as potential lucrative conversion projects,” according to a city staff report approved unanimously at Tuesday’s Community and Economic Development (CED) meeting.
The investors are converting these buildings into “boutique hotels” that cater to the affluent, and some have become Airbnb rentals, according to affording housing advocates.
Residential hotels, often called Single Room Occupancies or SROs, are an “essential option” for low-income Oaklanders who would otherwise face displacement or end up homeless and on the street, the city report said.
“(SROs) don’t require credit checks, proof of income or a long-term lease that may disqualify some from accessing other forms of long term housing,” making them an important source of housing for low-income people, the report said.
About 25 percent of residential hotel tenants have lived in their units for more than five years and many of those who live in the SROs are elderly African American and Chinese residents.
According to the city report, there are 18 residential hotels in downtown Oakland, with a total of about 1,200 units.
Council members and community affordable housing advocates are concerned that the staff report gives the city only six months to come up with options for preserving residential hotels.
During that period, they said, investors have the opportunity buy up residential buildings and convert them. Housing advocates are asking the city to pass a moratorium on such conversions until protections are enacted by the council.
Proposals include requesting that the City Planning Commission amend the Planning Code to preserve residential housing for low-income residents.
Staff is also asking that the amount of relocation assistance be increased for residents.
The staff report also requests that the City Administrator look into whether Oakland could purchase or lease residential hotels.
Speaking at the meeting, Elissa Dennis, senior affordable housing finance consultant of Community Economics, said many of the city’s SROs are privately owned and not in very good condition.
“But they are providing housing of last resort,” she said. They are “being rehabbed…and it’s happening very rapidly.”
“Put a moratorium on conversions,” Dennis said. “You don’t want your efforts to exacerbate the conversions.”