Oakland Is in the Throes of a Housing Crisis

Oakland faces a housing crisis that has displaced thousands and more than doubled the number of residents who are homeless and unhoused. While the City struggles to rebound from the recession, redevelopment funds have been stripped, federal HUD money is rapidly shrinking and legislators are struggling to find resources.

by Lynette McElhaney, Oakland City Council

Dogtown Redemption, filmed in District 3 in Oakland, is a heart-wrenching film that captures the depth and breadth of what our homeless and unhoused neighbors face every day in the Bay Area. The stories highlight their strength, resiliency, vulnerability and creativity. Most importantly, Dogtown Redemption shows the human capacity to give love and support to one another in any circumstances.

The city of Oakland is in the throes of a housing crisis that has displaced thousands and more than doubled the number of residents who are homeless and unhoused. While the City struggles to rebound from the recession, redevelopment funds have been stripped, federal HUD money is rapidly shrinking and legislators are struggling to find resources. Sometimes it feels like we are the little boy holding back the deluge with his finger in the dam.

But just like him, I am committed to doing everything in our power to find the resources to uplift and support our most vulnerable residents. My efforts began in 2013, as Oakland became the first City in the region to dedicate 25 percent of boomerang funds to the affordable housing trust. I led the Council as we strengthened tenant protections, and in September 2015, we commissioned the Housing Equity Roadmap.

Last November Councilmember Desley Brooks and I opposed HUD’s proposed cuts to the Section 8 voucher value. We put a full-court press with the regional public housing agencies, including the Oakland Housing Authority, to petition Secretary Castro to reject the proposed decrease. In January we learned that HUD not only reversed the decision, that they raised the reimbursement level – keeping hundreds of Oaklanders in the housing market. Most recently I met with Secretary Castro to advocate for more funds to go to bolster our ability to serve the homeless population.

Recyclers Jason Witt and Heather Holloway pull a shopping cart on the streets of West Oakland.

Recyclers Jason Witt and Heather Holloway pull a shopping cart on the streets of West Oakland.

 

Oakland has experienced a broken housing economy for decades, but I will continue in my efforts to keep Oakland diverse, inclusive and creative. We recently enacted a temporary rent moratorium in Oakland in response to the ongoing rental housing crisis, on behalf of members of the public and the Oakland Alliance.

This 90-day, emergency moratorium on no-cause evictions and rent increases provides additional protections to tenants by temporarily prohibiting large rent increases and expanding rent control to cover more eligible units which will prevent even more people from slipping into homelessness.

Lynette McElhaney is the City Council president, District 3, City of Oakland.

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