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    Oakland Has a Housing Crisis, So Where Is the Money to End It?

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large–

    In key findings from a survey of Oakland residents conducted on December 7, 2018, 75 percent of our residents see homelessness and housing as the top issues they want to be prioritized. This is not surprising, given that in most of our flatland districts, encampments line our major thoroughfares.

    The EveryOne Counts! 2019 Homeless Count and Survey confirmed what every Oakland resident has been experiencing, that the number of unsheltered individuals in Alameda County has increased 43 percent from 2017. There are several reasons why our unhoused population has grown, but our housing affordability crisis is a primary driver.

    According to a study by RentCafe, national rents average $1,469 per month. In comparison, Oakland average rents in July 2019 were $2,854 per month. Too many families, and in particular, Black and Latino families, are still rent burdened and in danger of displacement or homelessness due to this disparity. These are major factors that help to explain why constituency groups and individuals from the National Alliance to End Homelessness to the Chair of Governor Newsom’s Homeless Task Force have prioritized permanently affordable housing as the solution to ending homelessness so that we can create sustainable and vibrant cities.

    While the City has already surpassed its regional housing construction quotas, it is failing at creating affordable housing. According to a report by the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet, of the 10,092 new homes permitted, only 7 percent were reserved for low-income residents, falling far below the 28 percent pledged. If we truly want to end the homelessness crisis and keep Oaklanders housed, affordable—including deeply affordable—housing needs to be a citywide priority. We know the need is there. Over 4,000 individuals applied for 28 affordably priced homes, known as the Redwood Hill Townhomes, in May of 2019.

    In 2016, the Council took the step of addressing the impacts of the lack of affordable housing by implementing a fee for new market rate development to pay its fair share toward funding the City’s affordable housing needs. Due to the lack of transparency around the Impact Fee Fund during the recently passed Oakland City Budget cycle, it was unclear precisely how much money is in this Fund. 

    As such, I have scheduled a Committee hearing to receive a full accounting of affordable housing impact fees, and the status of these monies. I am also moving a resolution to fast-track these funds to affordable housing developers so that we can begin to develop housing for our unsheltered neighbors. It is unacceptable to ask market rate developers to come to the table financially to fund this development and not distribute the funds to those who are willing and waiting to utilize these funds for the intended purpose of stemming the tide of displacement and homelessness. I am committed to seeing this through, and I am hopeful that many others in the region will join me in this fight for community dignity.

    For more information:

    EveryOne Counts! 2019 Homeless Count and Survey: http://everyonehome.org/everyone-counts/

    National Alliance to End Homelessness Proposed Solutions: https://bit.ly/2sl2ptx

    Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016. She also serves on the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC). Follow Councilmember Kaplan on Twitter @Kaplan4Oakland ( https://twitter.com/Kaplan4Oakland ) and Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/Kaplan4Oakland/ ).