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Surreal Estate – or not

Oakland’s Blue Ribbon Inclusionary Housing Commission is moving to final recommendations, and will have a meeting next week at City Hall. They seem to be moving toward a watered-down IZ policy of 5% below-market-rate (BMR) units on-site (which the Hausrath report said nobody will do because of the widely varying land prices in Oakland), or 10% off-site. That’s in line with the average IZ policy in California (of the 20% of jurisdictions that have such a policy). They do not seem to want to discuss having the ordinance apply differently in different parts of the city, such as Redevelopment Areas that already guarantee 15% affordable housing (which usually includes low-income housing, not the lottery condos going to people earning $85k/yr that are envisioned by IZ). The League of Women Voters sent a letter to the Commission opposing condo conversions; it’s not clear that there is any consensus on that issue.

Frankly, the Blue Ribbon Commission is a big disappointment. They have repeatedly refused to discuss ways to encourage the private sector to build rental housing (a big concern of the anti-condo conversion crowd), or look at new ways to lower development costs through relaxed regulations. There has been no effort to increase Section 8 or Housing Authority funding, the largest of Oakland’s housing programs. The Inclusionary Zoning advocates (Just Cause, EBASE, non-profit developers, and some of the OCO) failed to produce people speaking in favor of IZ to the Commission, yet the Commission is still placing their pointless and counterproductive policy at the top of their list.

Despite weakening IZ, the conclusions of the Hausrath report are clear – there will be no units built on-site. Without the main thrust of IZ, what’s even the point of having a policy? If it’s going to a handful of people making $85k/yr, why devote so much time and energy to it? Having a catchy slogan and an uncanny ability to fool the press isn’t enough to make housing policy. But as Carol Lloyd revealed in the Chronicle today, it’s a good thing that no BMR units will be built as part of market-rate projects in Oakland.

This long-winded and hyperbolic bit of “journalism” underscores both the problems with government regulation of the private housing market and the socialist bias of our local media. Ms. Lloyd tells the story of a lucky BMR winner in San Francisco who has faced numerous special assessments and fee hikes from her condo complex’s Homeowners Association. Ms. Lloyd then explores the radical solutions proposed to the mismatch of incomes created by SF’s intrusive housing policies.

While everyone knows that fee hikes and assessments are normal though annoying parts of owning a condo, Ms. Lloyd calls this “the vortex of condo hell.” She then places the blame not on people winning lotteries for artificially-cheap condos subsidized by their neighbors, but instead on state law permitting HOA fees, asking rhetorically of fee hikes, “can they just do that?” (Yes, with the consent of a majority of the residents, they can.) And as is the Chronicle’s recent habit, she shills a State Assembly bill that would place absolute veto power over HOA fees in the hands of the small percentage of homeowners occupying deed-restricted “affordable” units.

If such a bill passed, which of course it won’t (and it sounds unconstitutional to me anyway), it would immediately complicate an already dicey relationship between BMR residents and the condominiums that they (technically) shouldn’t be able to afford without the government-mandated discount. Lloyd’s amazement at the private market, and inability to criticize inappropriate government affordable-housing programs, is a stark difference with her readers: check out the comments, all of which disagree with her call for government regulation of condo fees (though the commenters are not fans of HOAs either).

In Oakland’s redevelopment areas, new developments pay for low-income housing, and the area itself is required to build at least 15% low- or moderate-income housing units. That guarantees that lower-income housing is built in the same neighborhood, but does not create the problems of locating the housing on-site. With the Blue Ribbon Commission poised to require that developments even in Oakland’s redevelopment areas build 5% of their on-site units for moderate-income housing, the potential problems certainly seem to outweigh any possible benefits.

Posted in california, housing, iz, oakland.


7 Responses

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  1. V Smoothe says

    According to the most recent census information, 14.4% of households in Oakland earn over $100,000/year. An additional 9.3% earn between $75,000 and $100,000/year (it is not broken down further than that). Any proposal claiming that roughly 80% of households in this city qualify for subsidized housing is drastically divorced from reality.

  2. dto510 says

    I think it’s a real shame, and probably out of step with what most Oaklanders want, to focus our affordable housing money on developments that are as close to market-rate housing as possible. I understand that this helps non-profit developers make money, but where is the pressure to build low-income housing, or support Section 8? That’s what we need – not subsidies for the same income brackets that can buy a market-rate condo anyway.

  3. Frank C. says

    The vast majority of most left of center folks, or liberals, or progressives…..well over 90%, even in the Bay Area on the whole (perhaps not certain neighborhoods of Berkeley or the Haight)….are not “socialist.” Nor is the media, not even by a longshot. Go look up the definition of socialism.

    But when you used the word socialist, you lost me, and you are diminishing your own potential influence with sensible nonsocialist liberals (again, the vast majority). And you sound like a Limbaugh listening paranoid kook.

  4. Mark Whal says

    Wait, let me get this straight. Chauncey Bailey is murdered by a bunch of violent Muslim monsters and we don’t hear a peep out of “FutureOakland”? What a shame. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.

  5. dto510 says

    Frank C. – The CA Green Party is explicitly socialist, and they count several Bay Area elected officials among their members. I don’t see the harm in pointing out that nonsense like Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board, many of the arguments against the Oak-to-Ninth development, or inclusionary zoning proposals, are socialist – it’s descriptive, not inflammatory. In many European countries socialism is fairly mainstream – it is in the Bay Area as well. But I don’t need to focus on ideological abstractions to keep this blog moving along. As for definitions of the term, go ahead and Google “Dellums” and “socialism.”

Continuing the Discussion

  1. A Better Oakland » Worthless reporting on a worthless report linked to this post on September 11, 2007

    [...] Heredia, and you’re writing about an inclusionary zoning report from the disastrous Blue Ribbon Commission, you call up Greg McConnell and then you call up some IZ advocacy group, write down [...]

  2. A Better Oakland » Real problems deserve real policy solutions linked to this post on September 18, 2007

    [...] stores is not going to help the environment. Inclusionary zoning is not going to provide housing to poor people. Banning smoking near bus stops is not going to reduce asthma and lung cancer risks for [...]