During the Ethiopian famine, the country exported food. There was enough food, people just couldn’t afford it. The same could be said of Oakland’s housing crisis. Oaklanders spill on the streets, while new shiny buildings go up, and others buildings sit empty. CityLab did a great story on this, noting that there were four vacant units for every homeless person in Oakland.
There is housing. Folks just can’t afford it.
Or some folks can’t afford it, some folks can, some can afford to leave properties vacant.
Here’s the map from the Terner Center, nearly 5% of the residential parcels in West Oakland are vacant.
While you may not know it, depending on where you live. There are thousands of new units being built. The mayor said we were on track to add 22,000 units by 2024. Unfortunately, so far, 93% of units are market rate.
And even for the subsidized units, look at the example of the ironically named “Macarthur Commons” which you have seen go up around the Macarthur BART station. 11% of units will be subsidized, which in this case means you make $90,000 for a family of four. 90k is the definition of subsidized, and they will get 10 applicants for each of those spots at least. If those units ever materialize (if you know what I mean).
CityLab details the “Macarthur Commons” situation, where studios start at $2,545 and 2 bedrooms at $4,425.
MacArthur Commons, a 24-story behemoth looming over low-rise North Oakland, sits at the opposite end of this spectrum of noticeable neighborhood change. The partially completed development on a former BART parking lot, where studios rent for $2,535 dollars per month and two bedrooms rent for $4,425, marked the last stop of the march. Brooks emphasized that only 45 of its 402 units (or 11 percent) will be offered at below-market rates. And those affordable units could be out of reach for many, as applicants earning up to 80 percent of the area median income—about $90,000 for a family of four—are eligible. (The developers will also pay $1.3 million in upgrades for Mosswood Park.)“They didn’t build these for you. They didn’t build these for us. They didn’t build these for Oaklanders,” Brooks said, as a handful of newly moved-in residents looked down from their balconies. Several speakers noted that MacArthur Commons is the opposite of a true commons—instead, it’s an example of public land being given away to private interests.
Don’t get me wrong. New units do take some pressure off the overall real estate market. But the way development is happening and the vast chasms of opportunity it is exposing, as well as the visible effects of who is on the street and who is in these shiny new units, says something about who we were and who we are.
And we need to answer. By resisting and pushing policy change like the Moms4 Housing, by creating a YIMBY movement, as folks like Friendship Christian Center, who are building housing on their property, and continuing pressure on the government agencies to use their land for public uses as well as implement Oaklander friendly policies.
This is a man made crisis, we need to follow the Moms4Housing and start unmaking it.