How Trump is already wreaking havoc on affordable housing in the East Bay

FOR MANY IN THE EAST BAY, the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been at worst, an all-out assault on American democracy. At minimum, a excruciating daily mockery of common decency. But the reality television show most in the East Bay view on cable news can seem far away from our daily lives.

Last week, several city governments in the East Bay were directly impacted by President Trump’s rhetoric. Literally from Trump’s puckered mouth to negative financial implications for six affordable housing projects in Oakland, San Leandro, Alameda and Fremont.

Trump’s plan to significantly cut taxes has reverberating all over Wall Street, all the way down to the little-known Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). After Trump’s declaration, investors did the math and found buying up these tax credits for building affordable housing no longer penciled out when a general tax cut is a better investment.

Several East Bay cities, including San Leandro, Oakland, Fremont and Alameda, moved quickly last week to approve resolutions to create a go-around for continued funding of these six projects. The projects encompass $38 million in previous funding commitments from each city to construct a total of 420 affordable housing units. The shortfall in funding due to the LIHTC market crashing is $11.1 million.

They include shortfalls of $3 million for 90 units of senior housing at Fremont’s Mission Court Senior Apartments; $2.5 million for 110 of affordable housing at Oakland’s Coliseum Connection project, 28 units of affordable housing at the Redwood Hill Townhomes in Oakland; $1.9 million for 87 units of affordable housing on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland; $1.7 million for Phase II of San Leandro’s Marea Alta project for 85 units of senior housing; and $1 million for 20 units in Alameda for affordable housing on Eagle Avenue.

Last Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved a plan that allows each of the four cities to draw from their allocation of proceeds from Measure A1, the $580 million county housing bond approved by voters last November.

Before Trump’s call for lowering corporate taxes, the LIHTC’s were selling at anywhere from $1.10 and $1.20 per credit, according to the county. They now have dropped to roughly 90 cents. A county staff report added, “according to third party industry consultants, the market is therefore ‘self-correcting’ in anticipation of a corporate tax rate decrease.”

Debbie Potter, Alameda’s director of community development said investors canceled commitments for projects after gauging the administration’s strong taste for lowering taxes. “If you are thinking a tax cut is coming down the line, then you as a corporation or as an investor are going to pay less federal taxes. If you’re paying less in taxes, an affordable housing tax cuts is worth less to you,” said Potter.

Some city councils were reticent about the county’s offer, especially in Alameda, where Councilmember Jim Oddie voiced concern over the possibility his city will be quickly allocating more than half of its Measure A1 allocation in one fell swoop. Alameda’s base allocation is pegged at $10.4 million, although a much larger pot of funding is still available for the city to compete. (Alameda also preemptively discussed another housing project likely to be impacted by the LIHTC market, 130 units at Alameda Point and requiring use of $5 million from their allocated Measure A1 funds.)

Oddie said he envisioned the proceeds from Measure A1 taxes would be sufficiently leveraged for additional state and federal housing dollars. But absent a change in the county’s plans, it’s unlikely to happen. “Over 60 percent of this is going to two projects,” said Oddie. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

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Devices like the Stingray, above, along with a
search warrant, can track suspects through
their cellphones.

FREMONT IS WATCHING Last week Fremont became the sixth in Alameda County declare it a sanctuary city. But on the same night the Fremont City Council moved to express its strong support for immigrants and religious groups it also voted to expand its police department’s reliance on public surveillance.

Fremont unanimously voted to allow its police department access to a cellphone simulator, known as a Stingray. The device, typically mounted on a truck, mimics a cellphone tower and allows law enforcement to locate suspects through their phones, albeit with a search warrant. But privacy groups worry about the Stingray’s ability to gather bulk data on everyone in the general vicinity.

Residual mistrust also exists after law enforcement has long denied the Stingray even existed. And although the current privacy rules placed on the Alameda County District Attorneys office and Fremont Police does not allow for the Stingray to access text and other data from cellphones, it could merely be a software update away.

Similar to the Fremont City Council’s strong support for deploying up to 10 surveillance cameras at freeway exits and entrances, the current group voiced no concern for the privacy of its residents.

“When you have a cell phone,” said Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, “Google, Apple knows where you are, it’s a tricky issue.” He added, “When you have a cell phone you have accepting it’s there, they know where you are.”

Newly-appointed Councilmember David Bonaccorsi concurred. “I believe in the benefits as a tool of enforcement of criminal cases as well as public safety cases—earthquakes or natural disasters. Being used to pick up those pings could be a matter of life and death.”

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Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
last winter at Standing Rock.

KAP AND TRADE It may seem like it’s way too early to be talking about the 2018 elections, but not if you’re planning the early stages of a statewide campaign like Richmond AssemblymemberTony Thurmond is currently doing. Thurmond is showing strong interest in running for state superintendent of public instruction in 2018.

On Monday, Marshall Tuck announced his candidacy for the office. He ran a strong and expensive run for state superintendent in 2014 before losing to Tom Torlakson. But Thurmond’s openness over the months regarding his interest in making the plunge for higher office has led to a wide-ranging group of potential replacements.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said Monday that he has no interest in the seat and focused on his current job. Several insiders, though, mentioned his name to me despite winning the mayor’s race last November.

Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen’s name has also surfaced over the weekend. Guillen may still be stinging from a close, hard-fought defeat in the 2012 race in the 18th Assembly race to Rob Bonta.

But the strongest candidate for Thurmond’s 15th Assembly District seat could be Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who has proven unstoppable in any race over the years outside of running for mayor. Kaplan is also battle-tested, running campaigns every two years since 2008. In addition, Kaplan is a well-known political commodity not just in the Oakland portion of the Assembly District but in the general region. And when push comes to shove, Kaplan is adept at raising campaign fundraising. She just has to get in the race if it materializes, although other insiders believes she might be a better fit as an Alameda County supervisor.

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