Today’s Trib features a story about an apartment building in North Oakland which has been sold after belonging to a single owner for 42 years. All parties agree that the building was poorly maintained, and the old owner claims he decided to sell because some tenants made it nearly impossible for him to perform improvements. The new owner is now renovating the building and raising rents to cover the costs, as permitted by law.
I cannot say whether Jamaal Johnson, when writing the article, was being purposely misleading or merely lazy. But either way, the end product is irresponsible and just one more example of the biased drivel that passes for journalism at the Trib.
There are myriad problems with the story, beginning with the second paragraph, where Johnson asserts, without any clear reason, that the tenants may become homeless due to a rent increase. Irresponsibly omitted from the story is the fact that Oakland funds programs specifically to aid residents in this sort of situation by providing them a deposit and first and last month’s rent for a new unit when they have to move on short notice.
The artice then quotes a resident of the building ludicrously claiming that he will be priced out of Oakland if he loses his current far below market-rate apartment. There is an ample supply of apartments in the city available for the prices the tenants were paying. Having to move from the chi-chi Piedmont Avenue area into a less tony neighborhood is hardly the same thing as having to leave the city. The Trib is wrong to repeat such hyperbole.
Then there is Johnson’s erroneous implication that the owner paid more than 10 times market value for the building. It was assessed at $375,000, but the owner paid $4 million. Nowhere in the story does it say when the last assessment was made, but since single bedroom homes in the area currently sell for well over that, it seems safe to assume that it has been decades. No matter what the tenants want to claim, $4 million for a thirty unit apartment building in an upscale Oakland neighborhood is anything but a “bad investment.”
But the real problem I have with this story is not just about a few facts being omitted. It is that the article takes for granted that something is wrong with the law because it permits property owners to ever raise the rent on their units, while ignoring the many factors contributing to high rents in the city. We have a serious apartment shortage in Oakland, and no one seems to have any interest in building more units. Between the crazed opposition and endless appeals to any new project from anti-growth organizations and the insane insistence by some groups (and our local newspaper, apparently) that all residents have a basic right to eternally subsidized housing, is it any wonder why?