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Oakland isn’t even close to meeting its lofty low-income housing goal

Oakland is on track to surpass its ambitious goal of building 17,000 new homes by 2024, but is falling far short of its affordable housing quota, city officials said Tuesday, fueling questions as to whether the city’s massive building boom will help house its most vulnerable residents.
In the three years since Mayor Libby Schaaf set her housing target, the city has issued building permits for more than 10,000 homes — but just 7 percent of those were for subsidized housing reserved for low-income families. That’s far less than the 28 percent Schaaf originally pledged.
During the same time, nearly 13,000 households were shielded from displacement by Oakland’s new renter protection policies.
Schaaf laid out her plan for Oakland in 2016: build 17,000 new homes and preserve another 17,000 existing affordable units — and do it all by 2024.
“I am proud of the progress we have made since the Housing Cabinet released its 17k/17k Plan, but we have to remain focused and do more,” Schaaf wrote in a letter made public Tuesday. “Our City remains committed to improving housing security for all Oaklanders and indeed all who choose to call the Bay Area home.”
The gap in Oakland’s low-income housing supply highlights a problem many Bay Area cities are facing as they strive to build their way out of their respective housing shortages. Even as they see apartment tower after apartment tower built around them, city officials struggle to create the subsidized housing that could help prevent their most vulnerable residents from getting priced out.
Of the new housing built, Schaaf promised 28 percent would be subsidized for low-income renters. And she wasn’t the only one making big promises. In 2017, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo promised to build 25,000 homes by 2022 — including 10,000 affordable units — in response to the region’s “massive crisis.” But as of last June, the city had built just 64 affordable units.
Oakland has granted building permits to 10,092 homes since 2016 — nearly seven times as many as were issued during the prior three years, according to the report the city released Tuesday. Of those permitted units, 9,304 are under construction. If it continues at its current rate, the city will permit 26,912 homes by 2024 — surpassing its goal of 17,000.
But when it comes to building the affordable housing that can help low-income Oaklanders in their rapidly gentrifying city, Oakland is more than 1,000 homes short of its goal. By this time, Oakland was supposed to have permitted 1,785 affordable homes. Instead, it has approved 751 since 2016. Of those, 638 are under construction.
Oakland has ramped up its affordable housing pipeline, approving 34 percent more units than during the three years prior to this recent push. But many of the city’s residents still cannot afford a home. Oakland’s homeless population grew by nearly a third between 2015 and 2017, according to the Everyone Counts point-in-time survey. Now sprawling tent encampments cover many city sidewalks, and RVs and cars turned into homes line the streets.
There’s a great need for more affordable housing in Oakland, said Blase Bova, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County, which provides rental assistance and other services to people struggling with housing.
“I think she’s making a gallant effort,” Bova said of the mayor. “I just think it’s a very difficult and a very expensive problem to solve.”
The main problem is a lack of funds, according to the report from the Oakland Housing Cabinet.
The city has 1,698 affordable units in the approval process, but the developers behind those projects need an additional $58 million from the city to get them off the ground.
In an effort to close the gap, the Oakland Housing Cabinet says it will continue working to secure state and other funding for affordable housing. The council adopted a program in 2016 that requires developers to pay into the city’s affordable housing coffers, an effort that has raised $21 million in its first two fiscal years. Alameda County voters also passed a $580 million affordable housing bond in 2016. And later this year, the Oakland City Council is expected to consider a new policy that sets up guidelines for turning public land into housing.
Meanwhile, since 2016 Oakland’s new tenant protection rules have helped 12,949 low-income Oakland renters stay in their homes, according to the report. Those new rules include strengthening the city’s just-cause eviction ordinance — which prevents tenants from being evicted without a reason — and requiring landlords to pay relocation fees to evicted tenants.
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But from where Bova stands, things don’t seem to be getting any better. Local residents, including those with decent jobs, continue to struggle.
“Many in recent years have fallen behind because rents are simply so high,” she said, “and income hasn’t kept up.”

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