The City of Oakland is taking bold steps to address a housing crisis that has displaced thousands of mostly low income and minority residents over the last decade. Aggressive efforts to strengthen renter protections and increase the stock of affordable housing have begun to pay off. Rents are starting to stabilize, evictions are declining, and the percentage of residents who are “rent-burdened,” which means they spend 30 percent or more of their income on rent, is down.
But Oakland remains the Bay area’s fastest gentrifying market, a trend that has hit the city’s renters particularly hard. Renters comprise 59 percent of households in Oakland and pay upward of $2,500 in monthly rent, making the city one of the nation’s most expensive metropolitan rental markets. Compounding this challenge is an existing state law, the Costa-Hawkins Act, that allows landlords to convert to market rents once a regulated unit has been vacated, creating strong incentive to remove tenants protected by rent controls. Unjust evictions and illegal rent increases are common, but lack of robust data hampers the ability of policymakers to respond.
To address this gap, eight California cities, over half of which are in the Bay Area, including, San Jose, Berkeley, East Palo Alto, Richmond, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood currently maintain a rental registry, which requires landlords to submit data about a unit’s ownership, rental, and occupancy history into an online portal. This information allows policymakers to better monitor rental activity and develop evidence-based solutions to protect renters from skyrocketing housing costs. Similar proposals are currently being considered by City Council in San Francisco as well as in the California state assembly. If passed, AB 724 would be the first statewide rental registry in the nation.
To support this work, the City of Oakland will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will advise the City on how best to design, structure and potentially launch a rental registry that will provide vital intelligence to policymakers as they craft housing policy. The fellow will lead this effort with support from a team of staff at the Department of Housing and Community Development. By the conclusion of the fellowship, the city seeks to have a functioning rental registry that will bring more transparency to the rental market and enable decision makers to more effectively address Oakland’s urgent housing crisis.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in April 2020, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will lead the planning and development of Oakland’s first rental registry. The first phase of the fellowship will focus on planning. This will involve a listening tour to learn about the city’s informational needs and to surface best practices for creating a successful registry. This may involve travel to other jurisdictions to benchmark best practices nationwide. During the planning phase, the fellow will map out the process of creating the registry, including understanding what data already exists and how it can be used to help populate the new registry. The registry will, for example, need to include a baseline list of all rental units in the city. The fellow will also work closely with IT staff to select the data management software best suited to the city’s needs. Finally, the fellow will propose a process for analyzing the data in the registry and monitoring landlords’ compliance.
In the second phase of work, the fellow will oversee implementation of the registry, including beta testing the system, training staff, and conducting outreach with landlords and community members to educate them about the new requirements. All of this work will be a team effort, led by the fellow.
It is hoped that by the end of the fellowship, the registry will have been up and running for at least 1-2 months, allowing time for troubleshooting and fine tuning. Accordingly, the successful fellow will arrive understanding the value of rent control in a fast-gentrifying city and be able to move quickly from the planning to the implementation stage.
- Identify Best Practices: Interview city staff, local landlords and community members to understand the key elements of a successful registry. Engage with and potentially travel to other jurisdictions to learn about best practices.
- Create a Plan: Develop a detailed process for implementation of the registry. Recommend a data management platform and oversee buildout. Establish baseline rental data. Develop a process for monitoring data and compliance.
- Launch Registry: Test registry functionality and refine as needed. Train staff in how to use and analyze registry data.
- Conduct Outreach: Engage local landlords to build awareness of new requirements. Develop strategies to encourage compliance.
- Maryann Leshin, Deputy Director, City of Oakland Housing and Community Development Department
- Chanee Minor, Manager, City of Oakland Rent Adjustment Program
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in operations management, information systems, housing law or policy, and/or economics.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.