Oakland Passes Law That Bans Criminal Background Checks

By: Dylan Greenwell

On January 21st, the Oakland City Council passed the “Fair Chance Housing Ordinance ” law which allows possible tenants with  criminal backgrounds a better chance at getting housing. Though it will take place immediately, tenants will have a 6 month period before facing violations. It excludes single family homes and government-funded houses. Tenants will also still be able to consider if a potential renter is on the state’s sex offender registery. San Francisco has a similar regulation, but it only applies to affordable housing. Out of state places such as Seattle and Portland have similar measures. The California Apartment Association opposed this measure, but there are no plans to take it to court. 

This would also help with the problem of homelesness in Oakland which rose 47% between 2017 and 2019 according to a one night street count by county officials. According to Oaklandhomelessresponse.com, California accounts for 50% of the nation’s homeless population. Homeless advocates tied to the Oakland homeless response building a “village” of tiny homes on East 12th Street and 16th Avenue according to ABC 7 News. With the new law, they hope that more homeless people will have the chance to get a place to live other than camps, villages, etc. 

Though the law is one of the most restricted out of all of them, it’s goal is to make an impact on the problem affecting Oakland. It hasn’t been in effect long enough for change to occur but after the 6 month grace period is over, everyone is hopeful there will be a noticeable change.

Like Oakland did in January, Berkeley has banned criminal background checks on most rental properties. Berkeley is the second city in California to do this. The new ordinance which has proven to be very popular, received a unanimous vote and endorsement of the Berkeley Property Owners Association. Like Oakland, landlords will have a six month grace period before they’ll be fined for not following the ordinance. Also, state law allows them to continue to check the sex offender registery. 

Berkley has a homeless problem like Oakland, though not as bad; according to berkleyside.com, the number of homeless people increased by 13% within two years in July of 2019. With questions on how the law would be enforced and what the cost estimate would be, Mayor Jesse Arreguín said that Berkeley could pair up with Oakland to possibly seek philanthropic money. 

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