Tackling Homelessness & Making Housing Affordable For All Oakland Residents
Ending chronic homelessness and increasing housing access and affordability is a moral imperative in Oakland. Far too many – including Loren’s friends and family – have been displaced out of Oakland or onto the streets because they can’t afford housing in the city they love and call home. We must act now to prevent the further loss of the people who make Oakland what it is, one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the world.
As Mayor, Loren will make it a priority to increase the supply of housing in Oakland by building both affordable and market rate housing units using all available tools and ensuring that we deliver on our aggressive Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals. He will continue to work with city, county, state, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners to increase the pipeline of affordable housing in Oakland. He will protect renters without punishing small rental property owners, while increasing pathways to homeownership for low-income, minority, and senior residents. And he will adequately fund and fully implement Oakland’s homeless encampment management policy to close unsafe and unhealthy encampments and provide safety and dignity for Oakland residents and business owners alike.
Loren’s Plan To Solve Our Housing and Homelessness Crises
- Build more housing of all types in all Oakland neighborhoods. The only real solution to homelessness is housing, and we must eliminate outdated policies/practices that unnecessarily limit where, when, and how much housing can be developed in Oakland.
- Accelerate the production of affordable and market rate housing to meet regional goals. In parallel, increase the available funding, land, alternative housing development options and speed of housing development to reach our ambitious Regional Housing Need Assessment (RHNA) goal units of housing.
- Ensure the health, safety, and dignity of residents in and around encampments. Implement the encampment management plan, including standards that residents must follow whether unhoused or housed.
- Improve support services for our unhoused neighbors. Homeless service operations must deliver individualized outreach, mental health, workforce development services.
- Protect tenants from eviction and support mom-and-pop property owners. Enforce and continue to strengthen tenant and homeowner protections while providing support for small housing providers.
- Increase pathways to homeownership. Create more accessible and affordable pathways to homeownership to improve community stability and counter gentrification and other displacement forces.
During his time representing East Oakland on the City Council, Loren has worked closely with City staff and led the council to adopt a framework to guide investments into homelessness including critical prevention, support services for the currently unhoused, and permanent affordable housing solutions through the passage of the Permanent Access to Housing (PATH) Plan and Oakland’s first Encampment Management Policy (EMP). His frustration with the inadequate implementation and management of these programs is one of the reasons he is running for Mayor. As a councilman for an area that has historically been underdeveloped, Loren has worked with local developers to build more housing and there are several projects in the pipeline in addition to projects citywide that he has supported. But more can and must be done in city government, led by the Mayor’s office, to make it easier to build more housing in more places.
Read Loren’s Plan To Solve Our Housing and Homelessness Crises
(Expand upon each by selecting arrow on right)
1. Build more housing of all types in all Oakland neighborhoods
Oakland’s affordable housing crisis is primarily fueled by the low supply of housing across the Bay Area relative to the high demand. This supply-demand imbalance drives up the cost of housing which directly correlates to the amount of homelessness and displacement we see. The reason for historically low housing production in the Bay Area and Oakland in particular is racist policies of exclusionary zoning, redlining, and other policies to limit increases in housing and the influx of Black and Brown residents into historically white neighborhoods. The only effective solution to our affordable housing crisis is to build more housing of all types (with a focus on affordable housing) and in every neighborhood (with a focus on lower-density transit-rich neighborhoods where affordable housing production has historically been limited).
Loren believes that we have allowed well-intentioned laws and processes intended to protect residents from harm to be weaponized against projects that would otherwise benefit those same residents in need of affordable housing and equitable access to resources including living wage jobs, high-performing public school systems, and basic amenities like grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks. It is important to Loren that the city government remove barriers and obstacles from the housing development process so as to speed up access housing (market rate and affordable), and also to reduce costs of developing it.
1.1 Develop upzoning policies that are integrated into the city’s General Plan Update that is already under way – with a focus on neighborhoods that have historically remained under-developed due to exclusionary zoning practices.
1.2 Require greater transparency into decision-making and justification when council votes against the decision rendered by the Planning Commission, so that we minimize and eliminate unjustified delays in housing production.
1.3 Continue advocating for statewide and Federal policies that increase high density housing development including up-zoning similar to advocacy for recent measures – AB 2011 and SB 10.
2. Accelerate the production of affordable and market rate housing to meet regional goals
To grow housing at the pace needed to address Oakland’s housing needs.
We must increase the available funding, identify additional land to build new housing, improve city contracting for affordable housing development, and speed up the permitting and review process in a way that doesn’t compromise critical quality and environmental considerations. In determining the mix of housing to be built, we will focus on (1) low and extremely low-income housing as well as (2) the missing middle of housing (duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes) throughout the city.
Funding for Affordable Housing: There is far too little funding devoted to subsidized affordable housing, especially for those with the greatest need. More money is needed to tackle the problems of homelessness and displacement.
Land for Affordable Housing: Given the high amount of under-utilized public and private land in Oakland, we have to more aggressively activate those parcels and vacant buildings for housing production similar to Loren’s efforts to bring more than 800 units of affordable housing to District 6 over the past 4 years by working with public, private, and philanthropic partners.
Faster housing development: Our difficult and inefficient permitting process has allowed special interest groups and wealthier communities/individuals to block housing – particularly low-income housing – adding delays and costs to building housing and limiting the amount of housing that actually gets built. Loren is a strong proponent of efforts to reimagine Oakland’s planning and permitting processes to more effectively and efficiently move valuable housing projects through the zoning, planning, and permitting process.
2.1 Increase funding for housing development
- Establish an Affordable Housing Social Impact Investment Fund that allows local Oakland residents to invest in affordable housing development projects as a financing and community equity-building model. (local investors accept meager returns on their investments and the excess profits that would be extracted by traditional investors are used to write down the purchase price… making housing more affordable.
- Refine the affordable housing impact fee program
Reduce fees on affordable housing projects with deed restriction for at least 55 years
- Allow for allocation of fees to projects earlier to get faster activation of funds for public benefit
- Improve the balance between onsite affordable housing and payment into the affordable housing trust fund to derive maximum benefit for addressing immediate and long-term affordable housing needs
2.2 Increase land available for housing development
- Develop a City of Oakland Land Acquisition and Preservation Fund
- Work with EPA, DTSC, Alameda County Health, and others to streamline toxic site remediation – former gas stations and other sites that continue to be vacant and blighted
- Upzone areas that can take advantage of reduced parking minimums, taking advantage of lower construction costs in transit-rich neighborhoods including those impacted by AB 2097.
- Ending Exclusionary Zoning. Every neighborhood should welcome all people, and a diverse community requires a diversity of building types.
2.3 Accelerate housing development
- Fully deliver on the Reimagining Planning & Permitting initiative
- Substantially support efforts to establish an emerging developers program to allow diverse Oakland-based small developers and contractors to have greater ownership and leadership on the large transformational development projects in Oakland.
- Streamline approvals for ADU design & construction to ensure our ADU estimates are realistic and projects are efficiently conducted
3. Ensure the health, safety, and dignity of residents in and around encampments
To ensure both housed and unhoused neighbors feel safe and supported by the City.
Loren will build on his work spearheading the development of Oakland’s first-ever homeless Encampment Management Policy (EMP), which engaged over 1,200 Oakland residents in a 9-month planning process that led to policies related to encampments near schools, reducing chronic homelessness, eliminating dangerous encampment fires and limiting violence, crime, and illegal dumping in and around encampments. This policy has provided strategic direction but Oakland has not seen the full benefits of the policy because it has been inadequately funded and has not been fully implemented. In Loren’s first 100 days as mayor, he will adequately resource the teams responsible for monitoring of compliance with the EMP and its full implementation.
3.1 Adequately resource the teams responsible for implementing the Encampment Management Policy and monitoring compliance with it.
3.2 Publish Monthly Encampment Management policy progress reports
3.3 Establish a legal and administrative solution to stopping re-encampments of high sensitive areas where an encampment has been recently closed.
3.4 Ensure adequate health and hygiene solutions (garbage pickup, porta-potties, and wash stations) for low-sensitivity encampments with at least 10 unhoused residents.
3.5 Increased education and promotion of resources to help unhoused residents transition to housing in parallel with implementation of the EMP
4. Improve support systems for our unhoused neighbors
To better support our unhoused neighbors with effective delivery of crisis response, short and long-term housing programs, mental health and other services.
A recent Audit of Oakland’s Homelessness Services found that existing city programs are poorly managed and are yielding “mixed results”. The primary reason is that 85% of funds are sent to homelessness service providers who administer services with limited consistency in data collection, contract management, and performance reviews by Oakland’s Human Services Department.
As Mayor, Loren will draw on his experience leading the creation of a global contracting and procurement organization for a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation to overhaul Oakland’s homelessness contracting, and strengthen the data systems and performance-oriented culture within our Homelessness Operations.
4.1 Establish a strategic plan with goals and objectives aligned to corresponding strategies and an annual work plan designed to achieve meaningful program outcomes.
4.2 Improve data quality and measurement within the Human Services Division by:
- Enforcing standards on data collection, accuracy and timeliness for service providers
- Providing access to the HIMS case management tool for all service providers along with training, regular monitoring of data quality issues, and holding service providers accountable to data quality standards as well as program delivery standards
- Requiring HSA to create and update quarterly public homeless services performance targets and dashboards to allow the City and the general public to effectively monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of homeless services programs and contractors.
4.3 Overhaul contract monitoring by:
- Applying a comprehensive risk-based approach to contract management that allows broader and targeted reviews and audits of contract vendors and programs
- Regular vendor contract reviews to ensure contract monitoring activities are complete, well documented and that there are appropriate corrections by vendors as a condition of contract renewal.
4.4 Double investments into and scale of homeless services (e.g., outreach, workforce development, mental health, etc.) with a singular focus on transitioning residents from the streets to sustainable housing solutions
4.5 Implement an “Oakland First” Policy whereby services, investments, housing opportunities, and other resources are allocated to long-timer Oaklanders 7+ years in our city over those who have been here less than 7 years
5. Protect tenants from eviction and supporting mom-and-pop property owners
To prevent residents from becoming newly displaced or permanently unhoused.
On the city council, Loren co-authored legislation to improve just cause and tenant protection legislation in Oakland, working to ensure that tenant protections were balanced with necessary support for “mom and pop” rental property owners.
To protect renters, Loren will ensure adequate funding and enforcement of existing tenant protections and address inadequate housing policies. To assist small mom and pop landlords, he will fully support Oakland’s Rental Assistance Program (RAP) to provide critical services to rental property owners, ensuring the development of a rental registry will provide a fact base for well-informed policies that balance the needs of all stakeholders. And Loren will ensure that new housing is built without pushing out existing residents including the enforcement of Oakland’s Right to Return and Just Cause eviction protections.
5.1 Ensure the build-out of a robust rental registry that will inform data-driven and equity-aligned tenant/landlord policies and practices
5.2 Rationalize existing tenant/landlord policies to support both tenants and small rental property owners while minimizing undesired harmful effects on either group
5.3 Adequately resource the Rental Assistance Program to support both tenants and small rental property owners with education, outreach, legal assistance, and consultations
5.4 Actively enforce tenant protections including Just Cause Evictions & Right to Return policies
6. Increase pathways to homeownership
To strengthen homeownership in lower-income and BIPOC communities.
Oakland’s historic focus on housing has been to help low-income residents rent versus own property, relegating them to perpetually renting and limiting their focus and ability to build equity and strengthen their economic positions. As mayor, Loren will invest in the creation and marketing of home ownership programs that help simultaneously build housing and economic security.
6.1 Establishing mechanisms for supporting tenant rent-to-own programs.
6.2 Seeking and applying for even more federal, state, and county resources for home ownership
6.3 Supporting homeownership programs in the City
6.4 Continuing to support the City participation in advancing affordable homeownership housing developments through project subsidization, enhanced community engagement, and removal of unnecessary bureaucracy.
6.5 Working with County and the Oakland Housing Authority’s homebuyer programs to increase access for Oakland residents in addition to increasing funding for Oakland’s first-time homebuyer assistance program
6.6 Increasing funding for repair and improvement programs for low-income and seniors
6.7 Advancing the policy priority that Loren established as a councilmember to reform the probate system so that low-income and minority homeowners can maintain intergenerational wealth without having that legacy wealth of our seniors siphoned away unnecessarily.
6.8 Increasing educational resources for families so that they can keep homes in family and potentially convert those homes into revenue sources to offset costs of homeownership