Over 50 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began a new phase of his fight for equality - improving the conditions of the urban poor. His first Northern stop was Chicago, joining the Chicago Freedom Movement, also called the Chicago Open Housing Movement. He called for an end to discriminatory lending, rehabilitation of public housing and increasing the supply of low-cost housing. Within weeks, an agreement was reached with the city to build more public housing and with the bank association to address discrimination. Two years later, the federal Fair Housing Act was passed.
Sadly, the problems Dr. King faced still confront us today right here in Oakland. Oaklanders are having a tough time staying in their homes and staying in our beloved city. Our homeless population jumped 25% in the last year to over 2,760 people. Our city is the third most expensive rental market in the nation. And there is a racial dimension to these problems that surely would have disturbed Dr. King. 70% of Oakland’s homeless are Black even though African Americans make up only 28% of the city’s census population. And, our last census revealed that Oakland has lost nearly 25% of our Black residents, or 33,000 people.
At the same time, our city is experiencing a housing boom. As of December, 6,675 units of housing were under construction, but less than 3% will be priced below-market rate.
These are tough times for folks seeking safe and affordable housing. Just last week, the state legislature failed to move forward a bill that would have allowed cities to expand rent control, and the federal government suspended a critical fair housing rule to provide equitable access to housing and address segregation.
Oakland needs a comprehensive strategy rooted in housing as a human right. As your next City Councilmember for District 2, I will fight for more affordable housing that satisfies years of unmet needs; expansion and enforcement of real renter protections; services that keep our homeless neighbors safe and healthy, and provide pathways into permanent housing; and increasing access to home ownership.
Oakland’s history, heart and soul are at stake as our neighbors face homelessness, eviction and displacement. With all of our Oakland pride, love and talent, we could be a model city leading efforts to provide access to dignified housing, and I can think of no better way to honor Dr. King. We need city leaders who will collaborate with residents and be creative in finding solutions and resources. We need bold, proactive leadership, and that is what I will bring to City Council.