Homelessness and Lack of Affordable Housing Outrank Crime in List of Oaklanders’ Concerns

By Sam Felsing---Some 92 percent of Oakland residents rank homelessness as an “extremely” or “very serious problem” in the city, followed closely by a lack of affordable housing (87 percent), according to a new poll released this week by the East Bay Residents for Responsible Development (EBRRD).

The majority of Oaklanders (73 percent) believe that the pace of development in the city is “about right” or “too slow,” but they don’t want indiscriminate building and would strongly prefer developments be built with community benefits.

“People are understandably scared,” said Ben Rivera of EBRRD. “They are worried the area’s high cost of living is going to price them out of the area, and they’re seeing homeless camps going up all over the city. They may even think they will soon be in those camps. So the question now is, what can we, as a community, do to help?"

Other Top Concerns

  • Some 81 percent of residents ranked the cost of rent as an extremely or very serious problem, while 78 percent believe that long-term residents of Oakland being priced out of the housing market is an extremely or very serious problem.
  • The condition of streets and roads is ranked by 76 percent of respondents as extremely or very serious, while 64 percent rank deteriorating infrastructure the same way.
  • While traditionally the biggest concern among Oakland residents, crime is considered an extremely or very serious issue by just 64 percent of the city’s population.
  • Oaklanders are deeply concerned about a lack of opportunity for local residents. Some 62 percent say that the lack of opportunity for young people is an extremely or very serious issue in the city, while 72 percent express the same concern for people coming out of the criminal justice system.
  • Some 61 percent felt that a lack of good-paying jobs for local residents is also an extremely or very serious issue, while 78 percent say the same thing about a lack of housing that middle-income families can afford.

"This poll confirms that voters urgently want the city to take strong action to protect communities from displacement, bring down skyrocketing rents, and ensure that new development is driven by community needs rather than developer profits," said Richard A. Marcantonio, managing attorney for Public Advocates Inc., a Bay Area-based organization fighting to create opportunity and build community power.

Oaklanders Want Benefits

Despite the majority of residents feeling that development in the city is moving at just about the right pace or too slow, they want developers to provide community benefits with their projects, even if that slows down development overall.

  • Some 52 percent say that they’d like all new housing in Oakland to provide community benefits, like affordable housing for the middle class and fair pay for workers, even if that means less housing is built overall.
  • Some 72 percent of residents initially supported the Oak Knoll redevelopment project in the Oakland hills, but that support dropped to 38 percent when voters found out the site isn’t being constructed with union labor.
  • Some 85 percent say they’d approve of requiring developers to hire local workers first.

“There’s an opportunity for housing advocates and labor leaders to work together here. Our messaging may be a little different, but essentially we want the same things. I hope there is a chance for unity between the two groups, “ said Tim Frank of the Center for Sustainable Neighborhoods. 

Who’s Responsible for Fixing the Housing Problem?

Government bears the biggest responsibility for helping to solve the city’s housing problem.

  • Some 83 percent of respondents say that the city government has a “major responsibility” to address the city’s housing problems, followed by elected officials (68 percent) and the state government (59 percent). 
  • Some 55 percent say that real estate developers bear either a major or “somewhat major” responsibility for addressing the housing issues in Oakland. 

Even though these groups bear a major responsibility, their favorability ratings among Oakland residents are still decent.

  • Oakland’s city government has a 46 percent favorable rating versus a 39 percent unfavorable rating. Some 16 percent of respondents did not feel comfortable giving an opinion of the local government.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf enjoys a 54 percent favorability rating among Oakland residents, while just 41 percent of residents rated their individual City Council members favorably.
  •  Some 51 percent of Oakland residents have an unfavorable view of real estate developers.

“The city government is still very well-liked, which means it has the power to take action on these issues and be trusted. We hope its members use that authority to work with the community to achieve its affordability goals,” said Rivera.

About the Poll

Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associations (FM3), a public policy-oriented opinion research firm that has offices in Oakland and Los Angeles, conducted the poll. FM3 fielded it between February 23-26. Some 400 Oakland voters who cast ballots in the November 2016 election were interviewed. The margin of error for the poll is 4.9 percent.

East Bay Residents for Responsible Development paid for the poll. EBRRD is a coalition of the IBEW Local 595, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, UA Sprinkler Fitters Local 483, and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342. It represents 500 families in Oakland and 18,000 members in Northern California. Learn more at ebrrd.org.