By Chris Tittle, Sustainable Economies Law Center Housing Program Co-director
All politics are local. No matter what your feelings on the Presidential race or the state of our national political discourse, there are likely many important decisions on the rest of your ballot this November. As an Oakland-based organization, Sustainable Economies Law Center endorses Oakland Measure JJ, the Renter Protection Act.
In a blog about rethinking homeownership, we recently declared: “We have to stop profiting from property. If the privilege of property ownership determines who builds wealth, then the wealthy will build wealth more quickly than everyone else, white people will build wealth much faster than black people, and we’ll continually deepen inequality and racism in this country.” A necessary and parallel step to rethinking our extractive housing system as a whole is to stabilize the existing system. Protecting renters from the economic and psychological harm of eviction and untenable rent increases is good for the 60% of Oakland residents that are tenants. It’s also good for the rest of our communities because stable and self-determined neighborhoods are the foundation of more just and resilient local economies.
Six Bay Area municipalities are considering rent control measures this November. Oakland Measure JJ is sponsored by Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan, and driven by many of our allies, including Causa Justa:Just Cause, Oakland Justice Coalition, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Policy Link, Oakland Tenant Union, California Nurses Association, and many more. The Oakland Renter Protection Act will:
- Shift the burden from tenants to landlords to petition with the Rent Board for rent increases that exceed the Consumer Price Index.
- Expand Just Cause eviction protections to buildings constructed through 1995, protecting an additional 15,000 tenants.
- Increase tenant representation on the Rent Stabilization Board to increase accountability.
- Create a searchable database of rent protected units and rental caps, which will give tenants and advocacy organizations access to much needed data.
- Keep the exemption for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes to protect mom and pop landlords.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Housing Program envisions a world where every person has a home and housing is a right rather than a commodity. Strong renter protection and anti-displacement measures are a crucial pre-condition for our housing work to be meaningful to those communities most impacted by the structural, historic, and ongoing inequities of our current housing system.
(Interested in learning more about that history? Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations.”)
We work to develop legal structures and policy mechanisms that remove housing from the speculative marketplace and give communities control over land and housing resources. In particular, we promote cooperative housing, community land trusts, and other cooperative mechanisms for creating truly affordable, community controlled, and ecologically sustainable housing. Learn more about our Housing program here.