Bas wins $12 million for Community Land Trust affordable housing fund
By Ken Epstein
Voting Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council adopted a two-year, $3.2 billion budget, partially resolving the ongoing political fight with Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration over how much of the city’s income will be directed toward services for residents and wages for the city workers who deliver many of those services.
The new budget, named the “Oakland Together” budget, directs $87 million to priorities identified by council members and supported by community members and groups, including the ReFund Coalition, which represents a number of community organizations and city worker unions.
Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who had faced attacks from Mayor Libby Schaaf and the media for her leadership in producing the Oakland Together budget, told the Oakland Post she was pleased with what was in the new spending package but that several key issues were still unresolved.
“Even though many, many great items were included in the budget we passed (Tuesday) night, I’m not celebrating yet because we are still working to finish up some very important final items, specifically, resolving the (funding) situation with our workforce development funding and issues of our own city workers.”
In a statement to the Post, Mayor Schaaf said, “I’m grateful our City Council kept the administration’s proposal as the framework for the budget it unanimously adopted last night. The last-minute augmentations still warrant close review, yet I’m pleased the Council’s unified action will allow us to make unprecedented investments in homelessness and affordable housing and to start a historic road-paving plan on July 1.”
The City Council’s changes in the Schaaf administration budget included:
• A study of Cahoots, a program that would utilize mental health workers to respond to mental health crises instead of police;
• Remove the Mayor’s proposal to cut parks maintenance workers, which would have primarily impacted parks in flatland neighborhoods;
• Conduct an audit of the Oakland Police Department, which would examine police overtime costs;
• Substantial increase of homeless services;
• Some additional funding for the Private Industry Council and other workforce development;
• East Oakland healthy corner store conversions;
• Public bathrooms;
• Evening hours for permits at Planning and Building so small property owners can get timely approval of projects.
Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas said in a statement that she was pleased the council passed her proposal, the Preservation of Affordable Housing Fund (PAHF), to allocate $12 million to create a municipal fund for community land trusts and limited equity housing cooperatives to take housing off of the speculative market by acquiring and preserving rental properties with 25 or fewer units.
“This fund is a bold investment in a visionary solution that…puts (properties) permanently in the hands of Oaklanders,” said Fortunato Bas, who developed the proposal with local grassroots organizations Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action and Oakland Community Land Trust (OakCLT).
She emphasized that the new budget also includes programs to address Oakland’s housing, displacement, and homelessness crises, including hiring a mobile outreach team and full-time administrator focused on homelessness, creating homeless navigation centers, and expanding direct legal and emergency rent assistance for tenants.
“Our longtime neighbors are being pushed out while thousands of luxury housing units are being developed. This budget is a huge systemic opportunity to fix a crisis that is everywhere we look and only getting worse,” said Fortunato Bas. “We can’t solve it by tinkering at the margins, dedicating resources only a fraction the size of the challenges we face.”
Carroll Fife, director of Oakland ACCE and part of the Refund Oakland Community and Labor Coalition, told the Post that the coalition had realized many of the demands they had sought to achieve this year, “from funds for affordable housing and anti-displacement to additional resources to address the city’s illegal dumping epidemic.”
However, she said “There is a great deal of work to do. One budget cycle will not rectify the years of disinvestment that have impacted our most disenfranchised residents.”
Fife also called on people to support city workers in their fight for a pay raise and the filling of vacant jobs. “Vacancies in Housing and Community Development, Public Works and the Sewer department, to name a few, have direct and immediate repercussions on the entire city,” she said.
Former mayoral candidate Cat Brooks told the Post, “This is the most progressive budget Oakland has ever passed. It’s a big step in the right direction.”
But “It still does not go far enough in terms of divesting some monies from the bloated police budget and redirecting those dollars to critical needs for Oakland that actually keep us safe,” she said.
Published June 28, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post