Oakland Unveils City-wide Housing Plan, Financed by Bonds and Impact Fees

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By Daniel Smith

The first of a diverse collection of funding sources for Oakland’s ambitious new housing plan was scheduled for City Council consideration on April 19, when the council was slated to create escalating developers fees that will reach $24,000 per unit in some parts of town.

Titled “Oakland at Home,” the plan calls for creation of 17,000 new units by 2024 and the rehabilitation and protection of 17,000 existing homes for low- and very low-income residents. Its financing plan projects a potential total of more than $400 million from two proposed bond acts, a new infrastructure tax, state cap-and-trade funds and increased developers fees.

[contextly_sidebar id=”tVzpelNhBzQdGP5rXvbECjRYHDaaJC5I”]The plan expounds on the Housing Equity Map released by the city last year and calls for 28 percent of all new housing to be affordable for low- and very low-income households. It also includes numerous legislative efforts including expansion of rent control elements in the city’s Condo Conversion Ordinance and amending of the state Costa-Hawkins Act.

“Oakland at Home” was produced by the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet, a team of city staff, council members, and community representatives assisted by 110 volunteer citizens.

“This volunteer group put together in six months what other cities have taken two years and a tremendous budget to put together,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf at a recent press conference unveiling the plan. Noting the region-wide housing shortage, she added, “We do not have the time or money to build our way out of this problem. This action plan is focused on protecting and avoiding the displacement of the people that currently call Oakland home. That is our priority.”

“We cannot be another San Francisco. We will not be another San Francisco,” added Council member Annie Campbell Washington, one of four council members on the Housing Cabinet, regarding the peril of gentrification.

Oakland has the fourth most expensive housing in the U.S. behind San Francisco, New York and Boston, and the fastest growing gap between rising housing costs and income gain.

The plan’s financing sources could include $105 million from a proposed $500 million county affordable housing bond; $90 million from creating an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District; $90 million in state cap and trade funds; $60 million in developers fees; and $50 million out of a $250 million city infrastructure bond to be put to the voters in November.

“When redevelopment was eliminated, our primary funding for affordable housing construction and rehabilitation was taken away, so we’re scrambling,” Schaaf said of the $27 million the city used to receive annually from tax increment financing.

Prominent obstacles to the plan are evident, starting with voters approving the two aforementioned bonds on a ballot that may also include bonds for BART and AC Transit. The city council is scheduled to discuss the infrastructure bond in June and July before the ballot measure is due to the county August 12.

Also potentially competing with the plan’s direction is a housing rights and rent control initiative launched this month by San Francisco-based Just Cause, which was represented in the Housing Cabinet by Robbie Clark, its housing campaign organizer.

“I think we got pretty tired of hearing plans and never seeing anything happen,” said Camilo Zamora, acting director of Just Cause, which is seeking 35,000 signatures by June to qualify its initiative for the November ballot. “We need something stronger… I think that our plan is definitely the strongest.”

The City Council on April 19 considered creation of two separate development impact fees, one to address affordable housing and one for transportation and capital improvement needs. The proposal divides the town into three zones, basically East Oakland, West Oakland and Downtown. Fees would start at $7,000 per parcel and top out at $24,000 in 2018 downtown, in the Oakland Hills and part of North Oakland. Much of East Oakland would start at $750 and increase to $13,000 by 2020, while the rest of the city would start at $5,550 and grow to $19,250 in 2018.

After council considers the developers fee element of the housing plan, Schaaf spokesperson Erica Derryck said, “The next piece that they’re looking at is [amending] the Condo Conversion Ordinance.”

Many of the plan’s 24 “actions” to protect existing affordable housing center around strengthening and enforcing “renter protections.” The 19 actions to add new homes range from the infrastructure tax and impact fees to relaxation of secondary-unit regulations near transit. Schaaf also said there are currently between 13,000 and 15,000 units in the development pipeline in Oakland.

Schaaf was asked whether the plan will protect the rights of property owners as well as residents.

“We believe that existing laws provide for people to make a reasonable return on their properties,” the mayor replied. Noting that elements of the plan allow for fee exemptions and conversion opportunities, she said, “I think what you’ll find is a lot of these strategies are win-win.”

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