Oakland Housing Moratorium Succeeds Where SF Failed, But Will It Matter?

As San Francisco passed a first-in-the-nation family leave ordinance on Tuesday — meaning all parents, not just public employees, can take six weeks of paid leave after reproducing — Oakland was making its own political waves, getting involved in the housing crisis, an area its neighbor across the Bay tried and failed last year.

In response to the Bay Area's ongoing affordability crisis, the Oakland City Council adopted an eviction and rent increase moratorium for 90 days so city leaders can hash out a comprehensive approach to a real estate boom that has made the East Bay city the fourth most expensive rental market in the nation. For three months, nobody moves, and nobody gets hurt by a rent increase.

The emergency law was unanimously endorsed after some 200 people spoke at the marathon meeting, which lasted into the wee hours of Wednesday.

Last year in San Francisco, Supervisor David Campos proposed his own moratorium, a halt on building new market-rate housing in the Mission district, in response to years of displacement of low-income residents.

After the moratorium failed at City Hall, the Committee to Save the Mission placed Proposition I on the November ballot. It aimed to prohibit for 18 months the construction of any new housing development of more than five units in the Mission. It too failed.

[jump] There are stark differences between the two efforts, most notably that Oakland’s moratorium covers the entire city and not just one neighborhood. Campos’s original initiative was also shorter, at only 45 days.

Oakland is not trying to stop new developments — if anything, it wants more, since one of the top criticisms that led to the 90-day moratorium is a lack of housing options citywide. The general idea behind the move, according to Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, is to provide city leaders with a platform from which to educate tenants about their rights.

Evictions are difficult to track. There are many different kinds, with some examples being: Ellis Act evictions under a state law that allows a landlord to get out of the rental business; evictions for not paying rent; no-fault evictions when a lease expires and a landlord does not want to renew it. The latter is the focus of Oakland’s moratorium, in addition to limiting rent increases to 1 percent.

Through a public records request, IndyBay recently published figures on Oakland evictions in the past 15 months. The numbers are not pretty:

“[T]here are about 11,050 eviction termination notices on file with the Rent Stabilization Board from January 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016 and about 100 additional notices were filed for March 2016.”

An eviction notice does not necessarily mean tenants were displaced — the notice could have been corrected, with the tenants staying in place — but such high numbers make it obvious this is a serious issue.

It remains to be seen what effect the emergency ordinance will have on Oakland tenants, but it’s clear the city is falling prey to an affordability crisis that engulfed San Francisco years ago and continues to have negative ramifications for longtime residents. Perhaps advertisements like this one are being fitted for Oakland billboards right now.

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