Oakland leaders declare Section 8 landlord incentive program a success

An incentive program aimed at bringing new landlords into the Section 8 low-income housing program — and keeping them around — has yielded positive results, with hundreds of new units added this year, Oakland city leaders announced today.

The three-tiered incentive program was launched by the Oakland Housing Authority in January. As of June 30, 75 new property owners had signed up to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

“In just six months, 684 families have found stable, secure, affordable housing in Oakland. That is something to celebrate,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a press conference today.

Section 8, a federal program that provides rental assistance to qualifying low-income families, has been struggling in Oakland in recent years.

From 2015 to 2016, the Section 8 program shed more than 1,000 owners, according to Eric Johnson, executive director of the Oakland Housing Authority.

Since then, the program has been in “recovery mode,” he said, looking for ways to attract new owners.

“It can be a challenge to get to know us,” Johnson said. “We have lots of forms, and the first time through them is not easy.”

At a 2016 cabinet that discussed ideas to address Oakland’s housing and displacement crisis, city leaders identified incentives for Section 8 landlords as a priority.

 

 

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Get ready for a big fight over California’s property taxes in 2020

A big battle over property taxes in California is shaping up for the 2020 ballot.

Supporters of a bid to increase taxes on commercial land announced Tuesday they’ve collected more than 860,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue in two years.

“This is a defining moment for California,” Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, said in a statement. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state.”

Backers, including the California Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and community organization California Calls held news conferences Tuesday in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Fresno, San Diego and San Bernardino to demonstrate support across the state for the idea. Of the signatures turned in to the Secretary of State’s office, 585,407 must be deemed valid for the measure to qualify for the November 2020 election.

The initiative would make dramatic changes to the tax system established four decades ago by Proposition 13, which capped how much property tax bills could increase every year. The proposed measure would boost property tax revenues from commercial and industrial properties by assessing them at their current market value. Property tax protections would remain unchanged for residential properties.

The changes could net $6 billion to $10 billion annually in new property tax revenue statewide, according to an estimate from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. The analyst’s office also warned that the measure could have significant downsides for California’s economy by causing businesses to leave or opt against relocating to the state.

Business groups are girding for the fight over the tax hike, known as “split-roll” because it assesses residential properties different from commercial and industrial properties.

“California already has the worst climate for business and job creation in the country,” Rex Hime, president of the California Business Properties Assn., said in a statement. “A split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet.”

 

 

 

Read more on LA Times

 

 

 

Should California’s Costa-Hawkins rent control act be repealed?

Debating the pros and cons of rent control at the Urban Land Institute

The Urban Land Institute of San Francisco held a public forum at the Google Community Space Tuesday night debating Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow California cities to potentially expand their rent-control ordinances.

Arguing in favor of Proposition 10 and potential rent-control expansion was Amy Schur, the director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

John Eudy, co-chair of the “no” campaign Californians for Responsible Housing (and also a vice president at Essex Property Trust) argued against repeal.

David Garcia, a policy director at UC Berkeley’s Terner Center For Housing Innovation, appeared as a third-way party; however, since Garcia appeared to nominally oppose Costa-Hawkins repeal, he often functioned as a second anti-Proposition 10 voice.

All three parties agreed that the state’s goal should be more housing production. They also agreed that Costa-Hawkins as it exists now is ineffectual at protecting renters and that the status quo won’t do in the future.

 

 

Read more on Curbed SF

 

 

Oakland to vote on property tax, owner move-in eviction measures

Oakland voters in November will be deciding on three new measures.

The three new measures include a tax on vacant properties, increase the real estate transfer tax rate for properties worth more than $2 million and disallow landlords from evicting tenants on the grounds that the landlord lives in the property.

The vacant property tax, which must pass by a two-thirds majority, would impose a special parcel tax on all vacant property — including lots, industrial and commercial buildings, and units in apartment buildings and other multi-unit buildings like condo or townhouse complexes.

The measure was passed during Tuesday’s marathon city council meeting which lasted into the early morning hours of Wednesday. Landlords spoke out against the measures, mostly claiming they would put an unfair burden on small “mom-and-pop” landlords who may only have one rental property and rely on that income. Tenants’ rights activists supported the measures, and shared stories of landlords treating tenants unfairly, as well as the need for housing.

 

 

Read more on East Bay Times

 

 

 

Oakland housing developers turn to new ways of building to reduce costs

Rising construction costs are pushing Oakland developers to rethink traditional construction methods to make sure much-needed housing continues to get built.

“It is an issue right now that we are all facing increased construction costs,” UrbanCore Development CEO Michael Johnson said during Bisnow’s recent Oakland Construction & Development Update event. “What will happen is some projects will not move forward as a result of that.”

Double-digit increases in the cost of new construction projects are not driven solely by increases in material costs, but also by higher profit margins and greater labor costs as contractors struggle to find a qualified workforce, he said.

Several developers have turned toward using modular units, designing more efficient floor plans and creating new building technologies.

OWow is developing a type of unit that can adjust the number of bedrooms with a push of a button. Mechanized, acoustically rated walls would raise and lower to create up to four bedrooms, oWow founder Danny Haber said. His company has been building macro-units in Oakland that use efficient design to cut down on construction costs.

Other developers have been pursuing modular construction. UrbanCore Development decided to go modular on its Coliseum Connections project about five years ago, Johnson said. Conventional construction was more expensive, and an analysis estimated about a 10% cost savings on a $40M construction budget, he said.

The modular units are expected to be fully in place by Friday and the 110-unit mixed-income housing project is expected to be completed in January.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

 

Exclusive: Huge cannabis business campus headed to Oakland

Will this business park near Oakland’s Oracle Arena be California’s next big hub of cannabis innovation?

A sleepy Oakland business park a stone’s throw from Oracle Arena may be transformed into the Bay Area’s next big cannabis business campus.

Mesh Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on investing in cannabis startups, hopes to turn an office complex on Edgewater Drive into a center of the region’s cannabis manufacturing, marketing and production.

“It’s going to look very much like a tech campus,” said Mesh Ventures Partner Parker Berling.

The complex is master leased to Mesh Ventures Partner Martin Kaufman who is making around $20 million in infrastructure and tenant improvements.

California Capital and Investment Group bought the 207,700-square-foot office property in 2013 for $7.8 million, but has struggled to fill it. Kaufman said the Mesh Ventures team saw the opportunity of creating a campus in an area with access to top-tier scientific and technological talent.

“Sure, we could have done this in Fresno or Humboldt and t would have been cheaper but the level of people that we have here are unmatched anywhere else,” Kaufman said. “We have academics, scientists, really trained qualified people who are located here and are looking to enter the industry as it turns from a black market to a white market.”

Kaufman is the co-founder of dispensary Blum Oakland, which was sold in 2016 to Irvine-based cannabis agriculture company Terra Tech.

The center is being built out with the particular security and regulatory concerns of the cannabis industry in mind. Berline said roughly three-fourths of the tenants will be cannabis companies, mainly from the firm’s investment portfolio. Tenants are starting to move into the campus – which already has a functioning grow operation – and the renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Leasing rates are rates around $2 per square foot.

 

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Oakland’s growing pains could stifle future development

Dozens of cranes dot Oakland’s skyline and thousands of new housing units are in the works, making the current cycle one of the most robust in Oakland’s history.

As more people and businesses turn toward Oakland as a cheaper area to live and work, Oakland has struggled to keep up with both office and housing demand. Downtown Oakland is one of the tightest office markets in the country and multifamily rents have risen 51% since the start of the cycle.

Developers and designers are looking for ways to build more efficiently to keep rents down, but growing community activism, overworked city planning staff and tightening financing could stall future growth in Oakland.

Panelists discussed these topics as well as the impact of modular units and designing housing to meet residents’ changing needs during Bisnow’s Oakland Construction and Development Update event Thursday.

With 900 housing units delivering this year and 2,400 next year, the city is undergoing rapid change.

“Instead of the city [staff] focusing on department stores and auto dealerships, they’re making Oakland a very vibrant place to live,” Junction Properties owner Charles Long said during the event.

The increased development has spurred an anti-displacement movement and a backlash over a lack of affordable housing, which could shut down the future fulfillment of housing that Oakland has in its pipeline, he said.

Developers need to be more cognizant of working with the city and other stakeholders to better address the anti-displacement backlash, he said.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

Modular units make their debut at Oakland housing project

Modular units are being installed at Coliseum Connections in Oakland.

The $53M project, developed by a JV of UrbanCore and Oakland Economic Development Corp., will create 110 mixed-income units on a 1.3-acre Bay Area Rapid Transit-owned parking lot ground-leased to the JV.

The modular units were built by Guerdon Enterprises out of Boise, Idaho. Completion of the modular unit placement is expected on June 29. The project is expected to be completed in January when occupancy also is expected to begin.

Coliseum Connections is one of a handful of modular projects in the works or being planned in Oakland. Panoramic Interests plans to build over 1,000 units in West Oakland next to BART, and RAD Urban is planning two high-rises from steel modular units.

The project at Snell Street and 71st Avenue will have 55 market-rate units with rents ranging from $1,900 to $2,400 for households earning 80% to 120% of the area median income; the other 55 units will be affordable with rents from $1,100 to $1,600 for households earning 50% to 60% of the area median income.

 

Read more on Bisnow

 

 

Another 500 apartments on tap amid tiny East Bay city’s housing boom

Emeryville’s former Sherwin-Williams paint factory could begin its transformation into 500 new apartments early next year. 

After a five-year development process, the city approved Lennar Multifamily Communities project in February.

Lennar is expected to file for building permits early next year, said Charles Bryant, Emeryville’s planning and building director. The first homes could be completed by the end of 2021. Lennar didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Despite its tiny 1.28-square-mile size, Emeryville is seeing a number of large multifamily projects as industrial sites give way to mixed-use development. Sherwin-Williams would be the largest.

 

Read more on San Francisco Business Times

 

 

Modular construction to be used in high-rise housing in Oakland

Oakland will soon have the tallest prefab modular high-rise apartment complex in the country.

RAD Urban is pushing forward with plans to build two 29-story high-rises with 200 units of housing using steel-framed modular units.

Unlike projects built with wood-framed modular units that top off at mid-rise level, projects built with steel-framed modular units can reach much higher, RAD Urban Senior Vice President, Construction and Operations Jason Laub said.

Modular isn’t new to construction and it has been around for decades, Laub said. Modular construction and other emerging construction technologies will be discussed at Bisnow’s upcoming Oakland Construction and Development Update! June 14.

The increased costs of construction has caused more people to look at modular as a solution and cost savings, Laub said.

“Developers are increasingly not able to make projects pencil,” he said. “We need to … look for creative technologies to advance the industry and lower the cost to build and deliver housing.”

Steel modular construction saves 20% on construction costs and time to completion compared to conventional stick-built construction.

Modular construction is quickly becoming an alternative to traditional construction to save time and money throughout the Bay Area.

 

 

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