Black Housing Union Emerges in Oakland

KQED - The leaders of a local nonprofit that helped push a statewide rent cap through the Legislature this month are now focusing on building an African American housing union in Oakland.

About 100 black residents, city leaders and advocates gathered at the West Oakland Branch of the Oakland Public Library on Saturday to discuss ways to fight displacement. It was the second town hall this summer. The first was held in May.

Standing outside the door of the packed room, local resident Maurice Hedgepeth said he came because he has a good job as a truck driver but can't see himself owning a home where he grew up.

"I was just hoping to hear that they were walking down the path of solutions that can help get a lot of us out of this problem," said Hedgepeth.

The meeting focused on educating people about housing rights, including a presentation from the city's Rent Adjustment Board about what sorts of rent hikes are allowable and how to arbitrate illegal increases.

It also focused on the housing discrimination black folks have historically faced in Oakland — such as redlining — with the ultimate goal of mobilizing those who are impacted.

That included informing attendees about strategies that are already at play. For example, the Oakland Community Land Trust "removes land from the speculative market so that it serves low-income residents forever." It is among the organizations that will benefit from $12 million allocated in this year's city budget to create a municipal fund supporting such trusts and limited equity housing cooperatives.

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