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Oakland Freezes Rent Hikes, Berkeley Boosts Density

A tale of two East Bay cities

As of last night, Oakland is in an official state of emergency on the topic of housing.

Of course, to a great many Oakland residents that seems like declaring the Titanic "a bit leaky" after it’s already halfway sunk and Billy Zane is running around the banquet hall with a gun. Nevertheless, this means that by order of the Oakland City Council, rent hikes on most units in the city are illegal for the next 90 days.

Originally, the city planned on suspending most kinds of evictions too, but ultimately they passed this softer version of the moratorium on a unanimous vote. The Tuesday meeting lasted well into the wee hours of the night, to the point that the vote was technically cast on Wednesday morning.

Former Mayor of Oakland Jean Quan was among what Indy Bay calculated as a crowd of 200 speakers who showed up to testify, a host that also included angry landlords who accused the city of victimizing them for political gain and distressed renters and former renters who talked about the fear of losing their homes.

Meanwhile, in a parallel meeting four miles away, the City Council of Berkeley considered a suite of housing-related matters of its own, in a series of meetings with a combined 668 pages of agenda items.

Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates has proposed an aggressive Housing Action Plan that calls for increasing density, streamlining the development process, and adding new incentives for home owners to rent out their properties.

"We don’t have enough housing, and what we do have is rapidly becoming too expensive for low- and moderate-income households," Bates wrote in a March op-ed. "Our ethnic and economic diversity is being eroded as low and moderate income households are displaced or priced out."

The neighboring city’s crises are of course intertwined. The director of Berkeley’s rent board estimates that Oakland and Berkeley together house more than 60 percent of Alameda County residents living below the poverty line.

The board also estimates that Oakland sees about 900 evictions a month, one for roughly every 450 residents. Berkeley had a little less than 200 evictions per month in 2015, one for about every 580 residents.

Oakland OKs Rent Pause [Chronicle]

Oakland Set to Outlaw Rent Hikes [Curbed SF]

Oakland Approves Moratorium [Indy Bay]

April 5 meeting agenda [City of Berkeley]

Plan to Address Critical Housing Shortage [Berkeleyside]

Rent board communiques [City of Berkeley]