Making It in the Bay

Oakland Council Members Propose Phasing Out Eviction Moratorium by September

Groups for and against this proposed ordinance plan to attend a council committee meeting Tuesday

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In Oakland, a debate is heating up about how pandemic protections against eviction should come to a close.

Tuesday, Oakland's Community & Economic Development Committee will discuss a proposed ordinance brought forward by council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and council President Pro Tem Dan Kalb that would set up a gradual timeline for ending the city's eviction moratorium. If approved, the proposed ordinance would phase out the eviction moratorium, allowing certain evictions to resume from May through the end of August, then ending the eviction moratorium on Sept. 1.

The ordinance also seeks to make several changes to strengthen Oakland's existing just cause eviction protections.

Alameda County's eviction moratorium is set to expire on April 29. The city of Oakland's eviction moratorium is not scheduled to expire yet, though this proposed ordinance would change that.

Like many cities, Oakland has had an eviction moratorium in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. But three years later, Councilmember Dan Kalb says the city is in a different place.

"We are coming out of -- I won’t say completely, but mostly coming out of -- the COVID pandemic, and most people are back to work in some fashion," Kalb said. "We feel now is the appropriate time to phase out our eviction moratorium,  while at the same time, we want to strengthen our ongoing and permanent eviction protections."

Some landlords in Oakland are organizing to express their opposition to the proposed ordinance, instead calling for an immediate end to the moratorium.

"It needs to get phased out now -- tomorrow -- not over a period of time," said John Williams, an Oakland resident and landlord. Williams said he lives in the same West Oakland property where he also has a tenant.

"I still haven’t gotten five dollars from her,”  Williams said of his tenant, who he added has not paid him rent since the start of the pandemic.

Williams is also named as a plaintiff in a 2022 lawsuit against the city of Oakland and Alameda County over eviction moratoriums.

Williams said his tenant's nonpayment has placed a significant financial strain on him. He said he received a foreclosure letter for his property on Friday.

"I am losing money, I’ve lost value on the property, you know," Williams said, "Over the last year, nobody wants to buy a property with a tenant who doesn’t pay." 

"Before they ask any further owners to take on this responsibility, there has to be funding, because we’re all going to be homeless if the banks get our property,” said Oakland resident and landlord Michelle Hailey. While Hailey doesn't currently have tenants who are not paying rent, she said she is opposing the proposed ordinance to support other landlords she knows.

Hailey, Williams and other landlords are joining together with a group called In It Together Oakland to oppose the proposed ordinance.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) supports phasing out the moratorium and is hoping the proposed ordinance passes with no changes. ACCE is a nonprofit tenant rights organization that works with renters across California, including in Oakland.

"I’m feeling cautiously optimistic,” said Kijani Edwards, the director of ACCE's Oakland office. "We hope that the CED committee will do the right thing Tuesday when it comes to Oakland tenants, but we have reason to believe that it may not happen."

"We knew that the moratorium would end at some point, but we need a responsible phase-out instead of dumping people out all at once on the streets,”  Edwards continued, explaining that tenants have expressed to ACCE that they need time to prepare for the end of the moratorium.

Edwards said he sympathizes with the financial burden small landlords have faced during the pandemic. However, he maintains that “putting people out on the street making people homeless doesn’t get [the landlords'] money back at all."

Both ACCE and In It Together Oakland plan to hold separate news conferences Tuesday ahead of the committee meeting.

Tuesday's committee meeting is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Kalb hopes the proposed ordinance will be heard before the full council the following week.  

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