Oakland City Council is at a loss to explain how a pricey impact fee program has produced barely half the money and none of the affordable housing it was intended to create.
Oakland passed an ambitious plan in 2016 in hopes of solving their own manifestation of the housing crisis, at a time when Uber’s new corporate offices were supposed to be coming to town (which ultimately, they did not) and tone-deaf marketing campaigns were ballyhooing the ascendant Oaktown as “The Wild Side Of San Francisco.” Fearing the fresh round of gentrification would eat Oakland alive, the city council passed a bold ‘impact fee’ plan requiring all market-rate development to contribute to affordable housing, a plan intended to generate $65 million for 160 new affordable units over ten years. But the Chronicle reports that three years in, the plan has been a dud and not a single affordable unit had been completed or brought to market.
The city did not plan on having collected the full $65 million by now, that’s a ten-year figure. But they projected to have collected nearly $20 million by now, and thus far have only netted $9 million. But more importantly, no units have been built, and no qualifying affordable housing has even been added to the pipeline since 2017.
Oakland City Council is mystified at why so little money had been collected, and why construction starts are so sparse. “We have been asking these questions for a year and not getting answers,” Oakland City Council president Rebecca Kaplan told the Chron. “We don’t know if it is a failure to collect, being expended improperly or if the fund(s) are sitting somewhere, but not being tracked.”
A few of these affordable projects approved in 2017 have received funds, but they amount to a trickle. A 55-unit project at 95th Avenue and International Boulevard has received $1.2 million, West Oakland’s Friendship Senior Rental Housing Development received $2 million, and a 57-unit development in Hoover-Foster called has received $1.6 million.
Not one of these developments has broken ground.
The people who run these affordable housing groups and developments say they need that money to qualify for other grants they could be getting. “We have been in a holding pattern,” Satellite Affordable Housing Associates CEO Susan Friedland said. “It’s just frustrating. The whole process has been stuck by the lack of resources, and we feel that the impact fees are one of the biggest pieces of that program.”
There is a possibility that the market-rate developers got around the requirement by building offsetting affordable housing on their own, but if so, no one has any record of this. Oakland hopes to get a grasp of the issue by integrating the software at its respective Planning and Building departments. They’ve also hired an auditor to better track where the money’s going, but don’t hold your breath. That auditor is not expected to complete their analysis until Spring 2021.
Image: mark.hogan via Flickr