Rents in Oakland have increased at a phenomenal rate over the past year, and the escalation of evictions – more than 11,000 eviction notices filed since January 2015, or roughly 12% of Oakland’s rental units – is frightening. When you consider that a majority of families in our city are renters, and the typical renter earns less than $40,000 per year, it’s easy to understand why many current residents are finding it increasingly difficult to find an apartment they can afford in Oakland.
At last night’s meeting, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to provide a 90-day moratorium on no-cause evictions and rent increases beyond what is allowable by law. Hitting the pause button for 90 days will allow the Council to implement key measures in our citywide Housing Road Map and continue our progress toward a comprehensive plan that equitably and effectively addresses our community's dire housing-affordability crisis.
This measure will help give us some extra breathing room as a community so that the Council can evaluate and implement all of its options to protect long-time Oaklanders who are currently being displaced at record levels.
Three of five Oakland residents are renters, and they’ve have seen average rents jump about 40% between summer 2014 and summer 2015. Many landlords have benefited from this spike; some have not. Either way, this crisis is a real danger to Oakland, and not just to today’s tenants.
As I have said on several occasions during the past year, Oakland’s economic growth and housing affordability are intertwined. Without homes that are affordable for families across the income spectrum – low-income and middle-class households – our recent economic rebound will stall. And that affects our business community, property owners and all residents in one way or another.
Among the actions we are on track to put in place within the coming three months are:
- Reducing the rent board backlog and providing more outreach and legal assistance to tenants;
- Revising the Condo Conversion Ordinance to emphasize tenants’ rights and protections during the conversion process;
- Regulating short-term rentals such as Airbnb units that can take apartments off the market;
- Adopting a public lands policy to establish clear standards and objectives for converting City-owned parcels to new uses, particularly the construction of affordable housing where it is feasible;
- Prioritizing the acquisition of buildings where affordability protections are about to expire;
- Supporting the implementation of Oakland’s new secondary units policy;
- Finalizing impact fees for new developments;
- Laying the groundwork for city and county bonds that can fund the acquisition of naturally occurring affordable housing and the construction of new affordable housing;
- Pursuing Cap and Trade funds from the state's Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program; and
- Working with our state representatives to initiate advocacy and legislative efforts to reform Costa Hawkins (the state law which limits the scope of local rent-stabilization options).
I hope that during this “spring break,” we will be able to make sure both tenants and landlords are aware of their rights and obligations under the existing Just Cause Ordinance approved by Oakland voters. We are taking this action to restrict the use of exorbitant, illegal rent increases to evict tenants. On the question of evictions, this moratorium simply reaffirms our existing law.
A quick word to Oakland’s landlords: I recognize that the situation of every landlord is slightly different, and I appreciate the varying impacts that this moratorium may have on some property owners, the financial sacrifices you will be making – especially those who have invested their relatively modest assets in small buildings with just a couple apartments.
Under the 90-day moratorium, landlords can still evict for things like non-payment of rent and other lease violations such as damaging the premises, disturbing the peace, and illegal drug activity.
Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and that diversity must embrace both tenants and property owners. Please rest assured that this Council respects your rights and concerns as our whole community navigates its way through this dire housing crisis. We’re all in this together, and we need to work together to sustain a bright future for Oakland.