How Oakland’s anti-displacement supporters are using carbon emissions money

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California climate policy backs the anti-displacement organization in a number of cities.

When the residents of Deep East Oakland face eviction, they’ll have a few new faces to lean on — thanks to California’s climate policy funding anti-displacement organization in a number of cities. An Oakland initiative called Better neighborhoods, same neighbors targets five square miles with the support of a state grant funded by cap and trade dollars.

California Cap and Trade Program was introduced in 2013. Companies that emit carbon above the state cap must buy “allowances,” which the state auctions off. The policy has generated $12.5 billion over the past decade. A 2016 state law mandated that 35% of that revenue must go to low-income or otherwise disadvantaged communities. This is handled by channels like “Transforming Climate Communities » (CCT).

Grants from TCC, a funder of Better Neighborhoods in Oakland, are tied to anti-displacement work for a reason: “Green infrastructure” – whether it’s built specifically to deal with the effects of climate change, such as levees, or new parks and green spaces that alleviate problems like flooding – has had unintended consequences, including rising property prices and potential displacement. According to California Alliance for Environmental Justicewho helped design the state grants, “Without effective anti-displacement policies in place, large-scale investment could drive out local residents and small businesses due to rising property values.”

There is a growing body of knowledge to the phenomenon of “climatic gentrification”, where climate risk and green infrastructure can displace or exclude long-term low-income residents who are also the least protected from the effects of climate change. A 2021 study showed that the 606 Trail, an elevated park in Chicago, drove up house prices along nearby blocks. TCC grants are the first to use “carbon taxes” to address these negative consequences.

Oakland’s Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors plan provides $846,000 over four years for the East Bay Permanent Housing Cooperative (EBPREC), a non-profit organization that advocates for community-owned and decommodified housing models. The group has used the money to hire three organizers over the past six months. Over the past month, they have helped three East Oakland residents who were at risk of being displaced. Two live in unsafe accommodation and one at risk of eviction following foreclosure. For now, they are all still at home.

“What’s really great is that he’s been largely victorious so far,” said Scott Ortega-Nanos, one of EBPREC’s housing organizers. Ortega-Nanos says the organization was only focused on getting housing off the speculative market and not directly working to fight evictions, but then came TCC grants. He says the work can be complementary, as ongoing eviction emergencies can make it difficult for residents to imagine different models of housing.

“It’s hard to be creative when it comes to the essentials,” he says.

Organizers are focusing on six neighborhoods in East Oakland that are under-resourced compared to the city as a whole. East Oakland residents had an average median income of $39,600 compared to the city’s overall AMI of $51,400, according to data from the 2016 American Community Survey. the data shows that residents of East Oakland have a life expectancy 10 years lower than the city as a whole and a poverty rate 10% higher.

Anti-displacement organizers EBPREC have focused on people vulnerable to rising house prices and those who fall outside Oakland’s existing eviction ban. While California’s pandemic eviction ban has expired, Oakland still prohibits residential evictions for non-payment of rent, late fees and non-inflationary rent increases. EBPREC organizers focus on people who fall through the cracks, including landlords facing foreclosure-based evictions, who aren’t covered by Oakland’s ban.

“Some of the only evictions allowed are nuisance-based evictions and foreclosure, which is what we see in practice,” Ortega-Nanos says. There are also concerns about what will happen when the moratorium expires.

In addition to direct work against evictions, EBPREC organizers engage in coalition building around the broader community-owned housing movement, which the organization sees as work against displacement in long term.

“Land liberation, property liberation is at the core of our mission,” says Bee Coleman, another EBPREC organizer, “advancing this cooperative ownership model as an anti-displacement strategy,” says Coleman . The organization aims to reach 14,000 people by the end of Better Neighborhoods’ four-year grant cycle.

EBPREC organizers provide highly personalized, counsellor-like support, including letter writing and strategizing with residents who are avoiding travel. While there are other resources available for people facing deportation, many don’t have counselors on staff, Ortega-Nanos says. Many housing agencies have laid off counselors and others are dispersed, he says.

“There’s another level of emotional labor and care that I think is missing,” he says. “People need a lot of personal touch, they feel overwhelmed.”

The Meilleurs Quartiers plan also contains a housing component, an affordable housing complex of 55 units, 25% of which are intended for homeless people. The remaining units will be rented out to people doing 20 to 50 percent AMI. This $14.6 million project was designed and partially funded before the TCC grant arrived. But because TCC grants require matching from 50% of applying cities, Oakland had to identify projects already underway that could be tied to funding, according to Marsha Murrington, a consultant for the City of Oakland who helped with the application. .

Murrington says a Better Neighborhoods committee will track greenhouse gas emission reductions as well as the success of programs like EBPREC’s trip avoidance effort. The city and community organizations are looking to find long-term funding, as the TCC grant will expire after four years.

But Ortega-Nanos says the community has rallied to support people facing displacement, even without institutional support. “Apart from the organizational support, it seems some residents have already really started to care for and watch over their communities,” he says. The ongoing task, he says, is to ask “how can we support this activity? »

Roshan Abraham is Next City’s housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities Fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

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