Affordable Housing in Alameda

Measure A, Rising Rents, and Rent Stabilization

After I graduated from UC Berkeley, I moved from Downtown Oakland to Alameda because we got hit with a 10% rent increase. Since moving to Alameda CA, I’ve gotten involved with a local affordable housing advocate group called Renewed Hope. In addition to advocating for the construction of affordable housing units, we’ve been working towards trying to get the city to enact some tenant protection measures. There are currently no sort of regulations on rent increases or eviction requirements in Alameda. Landlords can do whatever they want. I’ve been hearing statements that landlords don’t want any regulations that are usually followed by statements of self-regulation, and free market ideals. The problem with that is that there is are already regulations in Alameda that limit the supply of housing (i.e. the housing market on the island is rigged in their favor.)

In 1973, Measure A was adopted in Alameda has been part of the City Charter ever since. This measure bans the construction of multi-family housing in the city of Alameda. This measure has caused a lot of problems in the production of rental and affordable housing in Alameda. Finally,in 2012, The Alameda City Council adopted it’s first housing element since 1990. This Housing Element added an multi-family overlay zone to allow the city planners to rezone parcels for multi-family.

Public Advocates list the outcome from adopting the Housing Element as:

  • Rezoning 16 sites — more than 115 acres of land — to permit multifamily development. In all, these sites have a capacity for more than 2,300 multifamily units. This is the first time since 1973 Alameda has zoned land to permit multifamily housing.
  • Making sufficient sites available to address not only the city’s current share of the region’s housing need, but also the portion of its past affordable housing needs that it failed to accommodate when Alameda Point did not transfer from the Navy as planned.
  • Building substantial incentives for affordable housing into the city’s zoning code. In rezoning sites to meet its affordable housing need, Alameda decided to offer benefits such as increased density and height limits to projects that include affordable housing. The maximum level of zoning benefits is given to projects in which at least 50 percent of the units are affordable to low and very-low income households. This incentive zoning is similar to the affordable housing overlays that Public Advocates has worked on in Concord and Menlo Park.
  • Committing the city to developing stronger affordable housing funding programs and pursuing all available sources of affordable housing funds to support new construction in the city.
Median Alameda Home prices. Zillow 2014

Since the Bay Area housing market is booming right now, Alameda has found itself to be an attractive option for speculative real estate investors. Many Alameda landlords have kept their prices relatively low probably due to setting prices by comparing similar properties on the island. But now that people have been priced out of San Francisco, and are starting to be priced out of Oakland the surrounding cities start to look like the next best option for renters. In the past few years, neighboring cities like El Cerrito, San Leandro, and Alameda have grown as people are seeking out more affordable rents.

The demand for housing in Alameda is growing rapidly, but the supply (which has been severely constrained to single family and duplexes only for over 40 years) has remained nearly stagnant. Without any sort of rent stabilization, rent controls, or eviction regulations, many Alamedans are at risk of being priced out.

Originally published at on December 12, 2014.

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