Oakland’s housing affordability crisis is deepening inequality and forcing working-class communities of color out of the city. Rent stabilization is an essential policy tool to stop displacement and must be applied uniformly to duplex and triplex buildings. Oakland City Council has a clear mandate from voters to strengthen rent stabilization protections. While the city of Oakland has a responsibility to support struggling homeowners, that support cannot continue to come in the form of an exemption that encourages the displacement of working-class Black and Brown tenants.
Oakland’s Economic Climate and Impact on Renters
- In the past 5 years, median market-rate rents in Oakland have risen 63%.[i]
- In 2018, there were 0 zip-codes in Oakland where the median market-rate rent is affordable to households making less than $96,500.[ii]
- Nearly half of Oakland renters spend more than the recommended 30% of their income on rent and 26% spend over 50%.[iii]
- Along with rising rents, homelessness rose 26% between 2015-2017. 86% of Oakland’s homeless were housed in Alameda County before becoming homeless.[iv]
- The affordability crisis is hitting working-class communities of color the hardest. 59% of households of color are housing cost burdened, compared to 42% of White households.[v] 68% of Oakland homeless population is Black[vi] and Oakland lost 43,777 Black residents, 31% of its Black population, between 2000 and 2014.[vii]
Oakland is in a housing affordability crisis that more market-rate construction can’t fix. We need to build more truly and permanently affordable homes for our residents who need them the most. This construction, however, will take years and must be pursued along with increased enforcement of existing tenant protection laws and immediate anti-displacement and homelessness prevention interventions. We must protect tenants NOW in order to preserve the affordable spaces low and middle-income Oaklanders already call home.
Rent Stabilization is Key to Stable Communities
Oakland’s rent stabilization laws have proven to be one of our strongest and most cost-effective tools for keeping people in their homes and stopping working-class displacement. Oakland council members have the responsibility to act to preserve affordable housing in Oakland. City Council must vote to update the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and remove an exemption that allows for tenants in duplexes and triplexes to be stripped of rent stabilization if their landlord or landlord’s relative lives in or moves into a unit on their property.
About 56% of Oakland’s housing stock is rent stabilized.[viii] 62% of Oakland voters, as well as a majority in Alameda County voters, supported efforts to update and expand rent stabilization with Prop 10 in 2018. Rent stabilized housing is a dwindling community resource – aging housing stock, condo conversions and numerous exemptions cause Oakland to lose an untold number of affordable rent-stabilized units every year.
For an Oakland tenant household making the median renter household income of $40,321, losing rent stabilization would require spending 90% of their income to afford a median-priced market rate rental. Since this would make it effectively impossible to qualify for an apartment, losing rent stabilization means being displaced out of the city or onto the streets.
Passing this ordinance would immediately:
- Protect approximately 5,100 tenants already living owner-occupied duplexes or triplex units by allowing them to re/gain rent stabilization;
- Qualify these tenants for protections under Oakland’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, which protects tenants from harassment and “bad acting“ landlords that are refusing to make necessary repairs; and
- Preserve the affordability of an estimated additional 11,000 units vulnerable to losing rent stabilization and coverage under the Tenant Protections Ordinance.[ix]
In 2018, Oakland voters approved Measure Y to preserve “Just Cause” eviction protections for tenants in owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. Voters sent a clear mandate that they want uniform tenant protections that apply to renters in owner-occupied buildings.
Without rent stabilization, Oakland’s “Just Cause” ordinance is limited in its ability to protect tenants. If a tenant cannot afford to pay a rent increase that doubles or triples their rent, the increase effectively functions as an eviction. In the wake of Measure Y, organizations providing tenant counseling services have seen a spike in the number of tenants at risk of displacement because of massive rent increases. Eviction via rent increase is an easy way for property owners to get around the will of voters and avoid paying for buyouts or the relocation payments these tenants would otherwise qualify for under the Uniform Relocation Ordinance passed in 2018.
Oakland has a duty to homeowners and tenants
Oakland’s housing affordability crisis is pushing out working-class communities and people of color, whether they are tenants or homeowners.
This duplex triplex exemption exists because the city recognized that working-class homeowners were and are struggling to stay in Oakland and that becoming a landlord is one path to homeownership. However, struggling small property landlords already have strong protections and leaving this loophole open endangers thousands of already at-risk tenants.
If this ordinance is updated, landlords that can demonstrate hardship will be able to petition to raise rents above the yearly percentages allowed by the Rent Board. In the event that they wish to move in a relative, the Mayor’s new budget has allocated funds to support struggling landlords in paying relocation fees to displaced tenants. The City of Oakland has a responsibility to make sure landlords are aware of these protections.
City Council cannot allow this loophole to continue to shift the expense of their responsibility for supporting homeowners onto the backs of tenants. Since working-class Black and Brown tenants cannot afford to subsidize struggling homeowners, to deny them rent stabilization is to issue an open invitation for these tenants to be replaced by wealthier residents and makes this exemption yet another policy in which the City of Oakland is enabling the economic forces changing the heart and soul of our city.
[i]Cash, Anna. “How is Oakland Living? A tenure diversity analysis.” University of California Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, 2018.
[ii] Bartley, Kaitlyn. “Paying the Price: Where Can You Rent or Buy Calculator.” The Mercury News, East Bay Times, 28 Apr. 2019, extras.mercurynews.com/pricewepay/calculator/calculator.html.
[iii] Building Financial Security in Oakland and Alameda County: A Data Profile. Family Assets Count, 2016.
[iv] “The Crisis: Oakland Homelessness Response .” Oakland Homeless Response, City of Oakland, 2018, www.oaklandhomelessresponse.com/the-problem.
[v] Rose, Kamila. “Oakland’s Displacement Crisis: As Told by the Numbers.” PolicyLink, Aug. 2016,
[vi] Cash, Anna. “How is Oakland Living? A tenure diversity analysis.” University of California Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, 2018.
[vii] Montojo, Nicole. “Understanding Rising Inequality and Displacement in Oakland.” KCET, City Rising – KCET, 12 Dec. 2018,
[viii] Rose, Kamila, and Margaretta Lin. “A Roadmap Toward Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California.” Policy Link, 2015.
[ix] Estimates made by Causa Justa :: Just Cause based on research made by the UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project and a review of census and parcel data. Estimates are conservative and attempt to exclude units build after 1983 that would not be eligible for rent stabilization and those which may have been converted to condos.