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Homelessness is rising in Oakland while the city remains far behind on its goal to get to a state-required number of affordable housing units built, according to a recent progress report on the city’s Housing Element, a blueprint for housing its residents.

Thousands more affordable units need to be built and thousands more units for moderate-income folks, too, the report shows, while the city has nearly doubled its target for market-rate units.

Oakland is at 26 percent of its goal for affordable housing, Shola Olatoye, director of Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which responsible for ensuring residents have safe and affordable housing, said in an interview.

“We know this is a far cry from where we need to be,” she told the City Council during its July 26 meeting.

The chart shows the number of low-income, very-low-income and moderate income housing units in Oakland in 2021 needed to meet state-mandated goals. (Graphic by Keith Burbank/Bay City News)

The targets are set forth in Oakland’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which is determined through a state-required process. For Oakland, the allocation is set by the Association of Bay Area Governments, a regional planning agency.

For the years 2015 to 2023, Oakland’s goal for market rate housing was about 7,800 units. Last year the city had already exceeded that goal by about 7,000 units.

But over the same period, Oakland is short about 2,700 units of moderate-income housing, about 1,400 low-income units and almost 1,000 very-low-income units.

James Vann, a founder of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, which develops policies and recommendations for the Oakland City Council around homelessness, indicated the problem is worse than the numbers show.

He said the city is building affordable housing for people with incomes of $48,000 annually but people living west of MacArthur Boulevard have incomes below that.

“We are not doing it for those who need it,” Vann said.

Counting on support of bond measure

The report presented to the City Council says, “The main constraint to meeting RHNA allocations of affordable housing is the lack of funding resources to develop and operate these units,” which Olatoye echoed.

“We’ve got to have the money,” she said.

In November’s election, Oakland needs an affordable housing bond measure to pass so the city can fund affordable housing, if residents want a city with a diversity of people, housing types and incomes, Olatoye said.

The city also needs the state to accept Oakland’s Housing Element, which has been a challenge for cities in Southern California, said Jeff Levin, policy director for East Bay Housing Organizations, which advocates for affordable housing in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Hundreds of millions of state dollars for Oakland are at risk if the state doesn’t approve Oakland’s Housing Element, Olatoye said.

“We cannot do it alone,” Olatoye said.

Oakland needs help from federal and state governments and local resources, too, she said.