Long-time Oakland Housing Chief Michele Byrd, who has been the subject of several NBC Bay Area investigative reports, is no longer the head of the city’s embattled housing department.
A source tells NBC Bay Area Byrd was fired.
The City Administrator’s Office, which oversees the housing department, did not provide details on Byrd’s departure, but did confirm Assistant City Administrator Maraskeshia Smith will assume "day-to-day oversight" of the department beginning May 3.
“We are so appreciative of Michele Byrd’s service to Oakland and her dedication to housing issues," said Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement. "As this is a personnel matter and, out of respect for Michele’s privacy, we will not comment further on this matter."
Byrd began her career with the agency 16 years ago and has served as the city’s director of housing and community development for the past 7 years, overseeing a team of more than 50 employees.
Over the past year, Byrd and her department have been at the center of several NBC Bay Area investigative reports, which exposed a serious lack of oversight and enforcement concerning the city’s eviction laws.
During an NBC Bay Area interview last month, Byrd wrongly claimed her office – as part of an effort to “educate” property owners – actively reached out to landlords who are known to be violating the city’s eviction laws. After NBC Bay Area pressed Byrd’s department for more details on those efforts, a city spokesperson confirmed not a single landlord has ever been contacted by Byrd’s office for not complying with housing regulations.
The City Council, concerned by a significant spike in "owner move-in evictions" and tenants’ fears that landlords were abusing the system, amended Oakland’s housing regulations in early 2017 to require property owners sign paperwork, under penalty of perjury, that they actually intend to move into the home after evicting their tenant. The new rules also required landlords to submit evidence, such as a utility bill, on an annual basis to prove they are continuing to live in the home for at least three years following an owner move-in eviction.
Eviction records obtained by NBC Bay Area, however, revealed fewer than 25 percent of landlords complied with the new rules. The records, which took Oakland’s Housing and Community Department nearly a year to provide, showed only 16 landlords submitted the required documents after filing owner move-in evictions last year, despite a total of 71 owner move-in evictions.