Oakland Considers Declaring Housing Emergency and Freeze on Rent Hikes

Oakland aerial view. (James Daisa/Flickr)

Oakland's City Council will consider declaring a housing emergency and a 90-day moratorium on certain rent increases at its meeting tonight.

The proposals were pushed by housing activists who say Oakland's skyrocketing rents are displacing many residents.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said on KQED's Forum Tuesday that she supports a 90-day moratorium as long as it gives landlords enough notice of the changes. She said landlords should receive only a warning, not a fine, after a first violation of the moratorium and be given an opportunity to correct the violation.

She also said the moratorium does not apply to many of Oakland's rental units that fall under the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

"We don't have the legal authority to control the rents on such a huge number of the rental units in Oakland," Schaaf said.

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Wayne Rowland, president of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, said on Forum this means that the moratorium would punish housing providers who are not responsible for the higher rent increases.

"These are the people who would be affected. They're already controlled. So this is control on top of control on top of control, and it's getting to be a little bit much," Rowland said.

Oakland has seen rents on market-rate housing and exempt units rise as much as 40 percent over the last 12 months.

Landlords can raise rent on units under rent stabilization laws by the value of the Consumer Price Index, which is currently under 2 percent.

The proposed moratorium would be extended to two- and three-unit owner-occupied buildings, which would increase coverage to about 60 percent of Oakland's housing stock.

Devin Katayama and Don Clyde contributed to this report.