Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fighting for Affordable Housing in Alameda: Renewed Hope Housing Advocates

Renewed Hope Housing Advocates joined as a new Tenants Together member organization in 2015. They work to promote the development of housing affordable to the majority of the people living in the Bay Area. Their President, Laura Thomas, answers a few questions about the work they do and why they think it's important to be a part of a state network fighting for renters' rights:

What do you think is the #1 issue facing renters in your community?
Well, rising rents is the No.1 issue for sure. That and the fact there is no rent stabilization regulations at all. Alameda has only gone as far as  looking at an ordinance requiring landlords to show up and answer a complaint from a tenant filed with the Rent Review Advisory Commission, but the decision isn't binding.

How does your organization help?
Renewed Hope has helped renters by convening a committee which met throughout 2014; we also pushed for a rent stabilization policy to be included in the city's 2015-2023 Housing Element, which was not accepted; we then participated in a series of community discussions with landlords which are ongoing. With our credibility and history in Alameda, we are able to help the newly formed Alameda Renters Coalition understand and maneuver the political landscape and support their efforts as they begin to organize. We have quite forcefully made the argument to Alameda's council and civic leaders that you can't oppose both rent control and affordable housing in such a period of crisis.

President Laura Thomas addresses the Alameda city council.

What is your priority campaign for this year?
Our priorities are monitoring the development of Alameda Point where 25 percent affordable housing MUST be developed as a result of a suit we filed against the city in 2000. The danger is really from the no-growth crowd who elected the new mayor and one council member that they will forestall or hamper the effort to get the project off the ground. We must work hard on countering all the NIMBY arguments that no longer use crime and "people from Oakland" as reasons to be against new housing. Now it's traffic.

Alameda point

Why do you think it’s important to support a statewide movement for renters’ rights?
Renters need a political voice on a statewide level now more than ever. State tenant protections must be strengthened. Many landlords are breaking the law by not returning security deposits for bogus reasons. A strong voice for their rights at the state legislative level, to help enforce the law that exists and pass new ones is crucial. Despite a Democratic majority in the legislature, many issues around safe and decent housing seem to be a hard sell against corporate real estate interests. A strong organization is needed to counter that reality and it should make the argument that housing that is affordable has to be supported through rent limits and building new housing which should be subsidized by those who are creating the need with their expanding work forces but shoving the responsibility aside, ie. the technology companies.

More on the history of fighting for affordable housing in Alameda...

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