After growing up in Oakland, Chanée Franklin Minor graduated Cornell’s Law School and worked for the city of Berkeley but due to Oakland’s housing crisis, she’s decided to come back to work in her home town. It’s been about four months since Minor became the new program manager for Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program (ORAP).
“The main reason I came back to Oakland was to help contribute to the fight against displacement and make sure Oakland is stable, particularly for folks who grew up here,” Minor said.
One of the most important aspects to housing stability, according to Minor, is rent stability. ORAP strives to help tenants understand their rights under the law when it comes to housing so that they aren’t given unlawful rent increases.
“When we’re in a housing crisis it’s super important for us to understand and make sure that people aren’t paying above what they lawfully should pay,” Minor says.
Minor also wants to help landlords to avoid potentially expensive unlawful situations. Some landlords find out too late that there’s a $100 a day fine for either cutting off a tenant’s lights or changing their locks. Minor thinks landlords wouldn’t make those choices if they’re aware of the fines beforehand.
In the last four months ORAP has already nearly doubled its drop-in hours where residents can ask questions and receive free help with navigating housing law issues. They’re available 27 hours a week now, including during lunch. She’s also launched a landlord/tenant mediation program and helped to clear up a mailing backlog which she estimates will decrease ORAP’s response time to residents by several months. In the past, it’s sometimes taken ORAP over a year to resolve tenant/landlord disputes but Minor is working to drastically reduce that wait.
Minor hopes to transform Oakland’s rent board from a passive model to an active model. As Oakland voters have increasingly passed ordinances to limit rent increases and evictions, she wants ORAP to actively seek out violations of ordinances instead of waiting for tenants to come to them.
She’s also worked to inform Oakland residents of the law and their rights so that less housing law violations occur. ORAP has already scheduled a workshop to inform landlords on the law and their rights for March 26 and now is planning a similar workshop for tenants in April.
“Information can help stop illegal evictions and rent increases,” Minor says.
Although the ORAP has changed a lot in the last four months, Minor thinks it will need more funding in order to effectively do work that will help people to stay housed: resolving landlord/tenant disputes in a timely manner, increasing outreach, and seeking out and enforcing violations of housing laws and ordinances.
ORAP is funded entirely by a yearly fee, which is split between tenants and landlords. That fee in Oakland has historically been low. It sits at 68$ now, about a quarter of Berkeley’s rent adjustment program fee, which is 250$. Minor is hoping that Oakland residents and the city will have enough trust in ORAP now to adequately fund it. She’s trying to increase the yearly fee to 101$. The city council will vote in early April on whether or not to approve the increase.
“I want people to know that we’re here, and we want to help people navigate their housing, one of the most important things in their lives,” Minor said. “We’re not new but we’re under new leadership that is trying to build an efficient and functional program.”