Caption: Nancy Nadel speaks at Tuesday night City Council meeting, calling on the council to pass a 2017-2019 budget that prioritizes “housing the unhoused.” Photo by Ken Epstein
Based on a survey conducted by the city on community budget priorities, Oaklanders overwhelming agree that homelessness and displacement are the most critical issues the city faces.
The survey found that the Oakland’s top issue to address in the new 2017-2019 budget was “Housing costs/affordability,” which jumped 29 percent from the previous survey and for the first time displaced “crime/violence/safety” as residents’ major concern.
As a result Mayor Libby Schaaf’s proposed budget came under fire at this week’s City Council meeting, as public speakers and council members criticized her administration’s proposal for allocating meager resources for affordable housing for low-income residents, including only $250,000 to meet housing and service needs for the city’s growing homeless population.
Speaking at the council meeting, Councilmember Dan Kalb said his top budget priority was funding for homeless services and developing housing. “It is lacking and needs to be upped significantly,” said Kalb.
“$250,000 is completely inadequate,” said Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington.
“What we can fund and should fund (should be sufficient) to make a real dent,” she said, pointing out that the budget also lacks any funding for the usual summer job program for Oakland youth.
Stating that “”$250,000 not enough,” Councilmember Desley Brooks proposed expediting funds from the Measure KK infrastructure, bond which voters approved in November, to begin spending money on acquisition and construction of affordable housing units as quickly as possible.
Calling for a “humane and” sensible budget,” Kaplan said $250,000 is not a “serious proposal. ¨We have a homeless crisis.”
She said the first round of KK bond expenditures should fund “affordable housing construction and immediately buy existing (structures), including single-room-occupancy buildings (SROs),” before the market drives up SRO prices.
Many of the dozens of public speakers told the council called for the council to take action on homelessness and affordable housing. A number of speakers said the city could find additional funds if it eliminates what they view excessive spending on the Oakland Police Department, which accounts for the biggest chunk of the city’s budget
Nancy Nadel, a community activist and former West Oakland councilmember, said she was speaking for a group Oaklanders dedicated to “housing our unhoused residents.”
“I have been coming here for at least seven months with no discernable progress,” she said.
“We see a lot of finger pointing,” blaming the county for not doing enough. “We hope to see new units to house our unhoused residents (in the new budget.)”
In a statement published in the SF Chronicle on Sunday, Mayor Schaaf said, “It is disappointing not to have all the resources we want,” and that as a result the city has to make “hard choices.”
Schaaf said that Alameda County has the primary responsibility to provide homeless services.
A new budget must be approved by the end of June. The next city council discussion on the budget is scheduled for May 30.