Oakland – Our city of Oakland and our SF Bay Area region have a deep and growing problem of the lack of affordable housing and a rising homelessness crisis. Numerous people have been subjected to predatory foreclosures and wrongful evictions, leading to displacement and thousands of people living on our streets. In order to provide affordable housing and protect and preserve housing for our community, it is important for Oakland to use all tools available.
It is challenging when Oakland affordable housing providers have to bid against for-profit investors to acquire houses in a bidding-war market. However, our City of Oakland government has the power to act in ways that we have not been using thus far, to help acquire properties through methods which reduce the problem of bidding wars and can help protect our community from displacement.
We have learned that we also have the power as a City, regarding properties which Alameda County is preparing to auction, to acquire those properties for housing our community. In order to do so, it will require timely action on our part.
California “does not have enough affordable housing stock to meet the demand of low-income households” and “the state’s 2.2 million extremely and very low-income renter households compete for 664,000 affordable rental homes” as stated in a report by the 2018 League of California Cities Homelessness Taskforce. In 2019 Alameda County’s Homeless Persons Point-In-Time Count, found a 47% increase in homelessness in the City of Oakland.
In the height of the foreclosure crisis, “more than one-fifth of 6,557 Bay Area properties that fell into foreclosure from January 2007 through September 2007 this year were owned by investors, according to public records.” According to Open Oakland Data, between 2007 and 2011, one in seven Oakland mortgages entered default, with one in fourteen eventually lost to foreclosure, the majority being in the East and West Oakland “flatlands” where there is a long history of redlining by banking institutions.
The City Council declared in Resolution No. 87111 C.M.S. a local emergency due to the existence of the city’s homelessness crisis due to a “significant number of persons…without the ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health and safety.” The City Council, in the June 2019 budget action, has set funds aside to acquire and re-hab properties as affordable housing, and such funds can be more effectively mobilized, if we use strategies to acquire properties in a timely manner, and avoid being caught up in bidding wars. The city also has the power to be in a stronger position to acquire properties by using the power of our budgeted funds to be able to quickly offer cash offers to property sellers. By failing to use these tools, we miss out on opportunities we could be harnessing.
A letter has been sent by Alameda County to City Officials, listing properties which the county plans to auction, and notifying us of our power to intervene to acquire properties, if we follow certain steps. Pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code Section 3695, the governing body of any taxing agency, including, for example, the City of Oakland,may, before the date of the sale, file with the tax collector and the board of supervisors certified copies of a resolution adopted by the governing body objecting to the sale.
Therefore, I am urging that the Oakland City Council take action to acquire some of the properties on the County’s list, (and potentially others), to help with our housing crisis. I am asking that we adopt a Council Resolution, to acquire specified properties which can be used (in partnership with community-based organizations) to help house those in need in our community.
With the stark crisis facing so many in our community we need an all hands on deck approach to provide for vitally needed affordable housing.
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