OAKALND CITY COUNCIL | An ordinance setting-aside up to 25 percent of Oakland’s future property tax dollars from the state for affordable housing, if passed later this month, could become a bulwark against significant losses in redevelopment funds, while igniting historical sensitivities over where to place future projects.
The potential ordinance, approved Tuesday by the Oakland Community and Economic Development Committee and moved to the City Council’s July 30 meeting, would dedicate nearly a quarter of so-called boomerang funds—property tax increment that flows from the city to the state and back– into the city’s affordable housing trust fund beginning with the next two-year fiscal budget in 2015. The ordinance, backed by Councilmember Dan Kalb, includes allocating affordable housing revenues for both one-time and on-going funding mechanisms. Kalb said the ordinance “makes a statement we are not turning our back on affordable housing.”
Amy Fishman, the executive director of the East Bay Housing Organization says the Oakland City Council needs to move quickly on securing funds for future affordable housing projects. “Oakland is a leader in this county and we need to show leadership,” said Fishman. Other cities like Fremont, Emeryville and San Leandro have recently approved set-asides for affordable housing, as have Santa Clara County and San Mateo County.
In the past, the existence of redevelopment agencies and greater property revenues funded a host of construction projects in municipalities throughout the state, including affordable housing. Those days are over following Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to dissolve redevelopment agencies and take greater control through tax realignment. In the post-redevelopment era, however, Kalb’s proposal to set-aside 25 percent of future allocations, therefore, amounts to a sliver of a slice of an even smaller piece of the pie, in some cases, one-third of what it was in the recent past.
Nearly two dozen public speakers urged the committee to support Kalb’s plan, but Councilmembers Larry Reid and Pat Kernighan voiced skepticism. Both approved the item in committee for the sake of bringing the discussion to the full council. “Don’t think me voting for it today means that I’m going to vote for it at the full council,” Reid told the audience, some of whom applauded the vote, Tuesday afternoon.
Reid’s showed reticence towards the issue when he painstakingly rattled off a long and detailed list affordable housing projects centered in his East Oakland district. Reid asked staff to compile a list of affordable housing projects in Oakland, “just because I like to prove myself correct.” He also urged for a policy discussion over the concentration of affordable housing projects in the less-wealthy Oakland flatlands, including adding incentives for developers to build above the Interstate 580 freeway. “Council man Kalb has some nice hills in his district I know some people would like to live in,” said Reid.
Council President Pat Kernighan voiced no problems with setting-aside future boomerang funds for yet-to be-indentified one-time sources, but worried about locking in the same percentage for on-going funding streams. “I don’t like binding a council in the future,” Kernighan said.
While calling the proposed ordinance set to trigger in 2015 “premature” just weeks after approving a new two-year budget, Kernighan argued segregating what would eventually become general fund dollars would reduce the city’s flexibility to provide other important public services. “This is not free money,” said Kernighan. “It is going to come out of parks and police and other things that we do.”
Spending on affordable housing needs to be appropriately matched to investments and services that improve the communities in which the affordable housing is built. Investments that improve the quality of life; services that include “minor” things like community policing.
I do think Reid has a point and it would show real leadership from Kalb to stand up to NIMBYs and get some affordable housing in the nice areas of his district. Yes, land prices are higher, but they are also simply better places to live. That would show leadership–not just asking for money for developers