San Francisco’s solution to soaring rent prices has been to propose more building (and also, curiously, to prevent more building). Oakland wants to take hold of the snake from a completely different angle: At today's city council meeting, legislators will consider (temporarily) outlawing rent hikes and evictions.
The sound you just heard was the head of every person in the Bay Area snapping in an Oakland-ward direction and saying, "Wait, can they do that?"
Evidently, they can. It’s called a "housing state of emergency and moratorium," and it would put a 90-day freeze on rent increase "not authorized by existing rent control provisions" (i.e., not above the most minimal legal rent hike) and on no-fault evictions. However, landlords could still evict for lease violation and/or tardy rent.
The proposal came out of a committee meeting in March. "Members of the public" are listed as the bill’s sponsors. The attendant report lays out the hard math: 60 percent of Oakland residents are renters, the average income is $30,000 a year, the average rent these days approaches $3,000 ($500 more than a person making 30 grand a year even brings home monthly), and prices jumped 40 percent between 2014 and 2015.
"Emergency measures are required" the report concludes, noting that things are just as bad in San Francisco and Berkeley, and somebody has got to step in somewhere.
What good does 90 days do? That’s the period during which the city will try to develop a long-term plan to curb evictions and create sustainable housing models. That sounds a bit ambitious for just three months, but then, the moratorium does employ some rather severe restraints.
Alameda passed and later extended a similar measure last year. The Oakland freeze is backed by council member Annie Campbell Washington, who, according to the Contra Costa Times, cited teachers among those who would be helped by a 90-day break.