The word “gentrification” seems to mean different things to different people. Some paint the picture of an established community displaced from their neighborhood by another, generally more socially privileged, group of people. Others describe the process by which individuals are slowly “priced out” of their communities by the influx of investment that does not reflect their needs or spending patterns.

On the other hand, some would say that gentrification is what brings dilapidated, crime-ridden neighborhoods into a 21st-century cultural renaissance of Internet cafes and $12 sandwiches.

Of course, the question arises: How do internet cafes and hip local bars address the needs and desires of an already established community that may not be able to affordably participate in the enlightened consumerism provided by said establishments?

What’s more, this emerging market seems to be attracting new faces to the neighborhood. These faces are likely whiter than those who have long lived in the neighborhood. And perhaps these newcomers are not only driving investment (wittingly or unwittingly) in the direction of $12 sandwiches, but their presence is also driving up the cost of living in these neighborhoods to the point that many of the folks who have lived there for some time are now unable to afford to live in what was once their community. Or maybe it happened the other way around, and the newcomers were followed by a wave of investment that favored their lifestyle over that of the existing community.

Surely in such a scenario, it is appropriate to blame the insurgent middle-class hipsters for their cultural colonialism and their $12 sandwiches. It’s an appealing narrative indeed. But it’s not the whole story.

In fact, there’s another group of people who are more complicit in the upheaval of vulnerable communities in low-income neighborhoods, and they’re good at avoiding scrutiny. Hell, they managed to help blow up a housing bubble a few years ago and avoid prosecutorial attention. Inflating local housing markets in the wake of a foreclosure catastrophe will be cake for them.

Here’s how it goes: large real estate investors buy up housing in neighborhoods blighted by foreclosure, mostly paying in cash. According to a recent report by the nonprofit Urban Strategies Council, such investors have bought 42 percent of the 10,508 homes that went into foreclosure between January 2007 and October 2011. These homes are then turned into rental properties.

Of course, mass foreclosure itself fuels rental demand as displaced former homeowners seek new accommodations, and demand for housing in the Bay Area is already exceptionally high (up 22.2 percent in the past 12 months, while the national increase was 11 percent on average). In the face of a tight rental market, these investors-cum-landlords can then charge rent that is significantly higher than the monthly mortgage payments families would be making if they could purchase the home. Plus, the ability for these investors to pay in cash eliminates competition from residents looking to take advantage of the lower prices of foreclosed homes.

This isn’t just an Oakland phenomenon. The New York Times recently ran a story about large investors who have swooped in on the housing market in other cities hit hard by foreclosure, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas.

When you do some research on the large investors scoping out this market, you find the same names popping up. Private equity firms such as Blackstone Group, KKR and Company (KR), and the ironically named Colony Capital, are among some of the big players. The Oakland-based Waypoint Real Estate Group, with the backing of the private equity firm GI Partners, has also begun to expand its operations outside of its hometown and into South Florida, Chicago, Atlanta, and other sites of foreclosure meltdown.

So what does this all mean? Well, for one thing, it means that those who are able to rent in the Oakland neighborhoods swept up by large investors will most likely have higher incomes than the community members who were foreclosed upon: thus, hipsters and their $12 sandwiches.

Of course, some large investors claim they’re not in the market for speculative and/or predatory ventures, but to connect foreclosed-upon homes with new buyers and to promote homeownership. The homegrown Waypoint touts a “rent-to-buy” program it claims allows renters the chance to repair their credit and eventually purchase their rentals.

The aggressive expansion of these firms into foreclosure-wracked markets isn’t necessarily a hopeful sign, though, and if housing prices continue to rise into bubble territory (not there quite yet), then those new homeowners will find their built-up equity has vanished when the bubble inevitably pops and home values plummet. That means no $12 sandwiches for anyone.

In effect, a rentier class of real estate investors is not only making a killing off of the tragedy of a foreclosure crisis, but they may also be quietly setting up the conditions for a new housing bubble while we vehemently point fingers at each other like the suckers they probably think we are.

While it’s easy to place the blame squarely upon those who can still afford to participate in this gilded market, the issue that underlies gentrification has always been poverty, income inequality, and the elites who prey upon low-income people. Unless we’re challenging the activities of these large investors in our neighborhoods or fighting for a higher minimum wage (not an unreasonable demand, as San Jose recently demonstrated), I fear the righteous outcry over gentrification in Oakland might be a textbook case of talking loudly and saying very little.

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50 Responses

  1. Alden

    Is there not a paranoid tone to all this? What’s all this about $12 sandwiches and neocolonialism? Are we not getting our categories confused? What would the author have done with these foreclosed and abandoned properties? Invite in the drug dealers? Because that’s what happens in my neighborhood. So people see a way to make money out of this. Shame, shame.

    Reply
  2. Paul

    Stop the whining over gentrification! Long time Oaklanders have had their opportunity a multitude of times to buy and own property in Oakland! In West Oakland the old forgotten, run down Victorian homes (which at one time were possibly owned by the gentrificationer’s great great great great grand parents) sold for as little as $5. Yes all you needed was $5 and agree to stay and clean up the home for 5 years!

    I bought my first home in 1973 for $32,500 with my GI Bill and a $1,000 for closing costs.

    Yes Oaklanders have had their chance over an over again to own. Now its time for Oakland to become the city it was always meant to be, a City that has a there, there!

    Reply
    • valeriewoakland

      Given the history of redlining (banks refusing to loan in certain neighborhoods–usually minority), of racial discrimination (including the way redevelopment was used to bulldoze predominately African-American neighborhoods, in West Oakland, it was the area mostly inhabited by Black professionals, not the worst slums), how for many years African American vets could not use the GI Bill to buy houses (due to racial discrimination in the home sales in housing developments that qualified for GI Bill loans), predatory loans targeted at minority owners (a reason for a number of the foreclosures), and number of other factors, I think it’s more than a bit harsh to say that “Long time Oaklanders have had their opportunity a multitude of times to buy and own property in Oakland!” In fact, we do not yet live in a “post-racial” nirvana. And BTW, I’m white.

      Reply
  3. KL

    Thanks for this article. For many Oakland natives/long time residents, Oakland has always been a beautiful home. It has a rich history of Black activism and Black gay activism.

    Reply
  4. kilgoretrout56

    In Oakland, the ‘gentrifiers’ are the people that paint their house once in a while, mow their lawns and pick up the McDonald’s bags dumped in the middle of their streets…

    Reply
    • A

      While your neighbors might think they do, many residents (old and new) know better that they’re not. East and West Oakland residents have had a long time to get there areas together but the sad fact is, those communities have not and will not pick themselves up without outside intervention.

      I for one am glad those homes are being fixed up and not left to sit in ruin.

      Reply
    • KL

      Many of those unkempt properties are owned by absentee or uninvolved landlords. The African American homeowners in East and West Oakland that I know all take pride in their homes. Many have owned their homes for decades.

      They complain about those absentee property owners too–who generally are not African American.

      Reply
  5. KL

    Many “gentrifiers” believe the hype that they are the only ones painting their houses and mowing their lawns. They also believe the hype that this makes a community.

    We natives/long time residents know better.

    Reply
  6. KL

    I should say that many of my friends and I (all natives or long time residents) talk about that hype. We find it offensive.

    Reply
  7. Fm

    I’m sensitive to the “native” concerns about gentrification. But honestly, I’m one of them. You can be angry with me for fixing up an abandoned house in a transitional neighborhood, but if things don’t continue to improve (as they are now) I will simply move away and take my tax dollars and local spending with me. The fact of the matter is that people are highly mobile these days and there is very little to keep people from moving from a place that they see as unsafe or deteriorating.

    Reply
    • KL

      But as a “native,” didn’t you grow up knowing African Americans who painted their homes and mowed their lawns?

      Doesn’t all this talk about “painting houses and mowing lawns” cover up some of the major issues that “natives” deal with? Does gentrification really deal with the issues? For example, how about some of the issues in the schools? The high unemployment rate among Oakland’s African Americans?

      Reply
    • Jonatton Yeah?

      Maybe, just maybe, the issues of unemployment and educational shortcomings are tied to the Oakland African American culture you seem to hold so high. No, no; of course not. All the good things are because of the strength of culture. All the bad things are a systemic and are the result of so-called “gentrifiers” not caring enough. What a rosy world you must live in.

      Reply
      • valeriewoaklalnd

        OK. This rapidly aging white woman has to jump in. This whole exchange has gotten really unpleasant on the racial front. In the space allowed in this kind of comment, it’s not possible to talk about every racial group. For myself, I wasn’t leaving out anyone on purpose, but speaking to the historic (60+ years worth) predominance of African Americans in West Oakland, and to the historic plurality of that same population city-wide, though demographics are rapidly changing. And yes, African Americans *have* been moving to Antioch and Tracy as they get priced out of Oakland. Much of what can be said about African Americans’ struggles here are true about any minority, low-income community.

        Yes, unemployment and “educational shortcomings” are definitely tied to systemic issues. Those issues include: the gradual and several-decades-long abandonment of the inner city by the federal government; the federal and state policies that encourage outsourcing and moving living wage jobs overseas (as much as I love the art scene in Oakland, there is a sad reason why there are so many factories now filled with live-work spaces and studios rather than jobs with wages that allow a middle class life); the assignment of the least experienced teachers to the inner city schools (including the much lauded Teach for America program, whose idealistic but untrained young teachers rarely last more than a couple of years); and even the lack of universal medical and dental care (kids without access to dental care miss more school because of toothaches and are four times likelier to have lower grades than kids with access). ‘Nuf said.

  8. Color blur

    Again and again the narrative is reduced to what about African-Americans in Oakland. Natives and long-term residents of Oakland come from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. What about considering what is/will/can make oakland better for everyone as opposed just for one group?

    Reply
  9. KL

    The narrative is not “reduced” to African Americans in Oakland. African Americans were already in the narrative. Many people want to take African Americans or race out of the narrative. Yet, we comes back as you say “again and again.” That’s because we belong in the narrative. “Again and again” others try to force us out.

    Reply
  10. Eyes wide open

    I anticipated the what about me and only me viewpoint about African-Americans. As if Oakland was and is currently comprised of only one racial group. As an indigenous-American, I just consider you just another whinny gentrifier, just in a different time/space. I know it must be difficult, but try and see beyond the black/gay narrative argued over and over. Perhaps it might be useful to think about the collective population and what contributes to elevating and growing oakland for everyone as a whole. African-Americans are not the pinnacle group in Oakland that resources should be catered too.

    Reply
    • KL

      Where is your “collective population”? Is it in the hills or the flatlands?

      Also, you wrote: “As an Indigenous-American, I just consider you another whiny gentrifier, just in a different time/space.” Perhaps a lesson in African American history is called for here.

      Then you wrote: “I know it must be difficult, but try and see beyond the black/(black) gay narrative argued over and over.” Considering the fact that the African Americans were here before the “Oakland Renaissance,” we should be included in the narrative. We are a part of that history. Even our erasure is part of the narrative.

      So using your argument, do you justify the erasure of Indigenous-American history/culture from any discussion of an American identity?

      Reply
  11. Eyes wide open

    1). My collective population is everywhere (hills, flatlands, uptown, downtown, ghosttown, etc, etc) since I think of oakland as a whole, not fragmented as I suspect you do.

    2). Please give the African-American historical lesson. Are you saying they were here before my people? Doubt it. My people were here long before African-Americans migrated from the south and infused themselves and their respective culture into the already established one. Perhaps you have forgotten the fact this migration displaced inhabitants already settled here.

    3). I don’t advocate or support the erasure of anyone. However, at this time, you must realize you are not comprised of a single culture, nationality, race, ethnicity. Once you acknowledge this perhaps you can move beyond just the African-American perspective and have a pluralistic perspective and think what’s good for eveyone as opposed just YOU.

    Reply
  12. KL

    1. Do you really believe that the concerns/interests on the people in the flatlands, hills and downtown are the same? I’m not just talking about crime or public safety or programs. I’m talking about schools, community, etc.

    So who decides what this “collective population” is?

    2. Are you saying that African Americans moved into established Indigenous communities and displaced them in the 1940s? Were your people in the Victorians of West Oakland?

    3. In effect, you are advocating erasure of African American history and culture in Oakland. You are advocating our invisibility. We can’t be a part of your “collective population” and still have our culture/visibility respected?

    No, you don’t tell us what to talk about. You don’t tell us what to bring to your “collective” population.

    4. If you re-read the string of comments, my response was to reducing Oakland, home of a lot of African American culture, to blight and crime. Oaklanders do “mow their lawns” and “paint their homes.” Just because many of these gentrifiers didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

    Reply
    • KL

      Three more points about African American history:

      1. I know many African Americans who were more than proud to accentuate their “Indian heritage.” Even if they were exaggerating.

      2. Some Indians owned slaves–their slaves did not displace them

      3. Indian genocide was not due to African American displacement

      Reply
  13. Eyes wide open

    African-Americans were not the original inhabitants of west oakland or the first occupants of those Victorians.

    I’m sure you’ll argue every oaklander is a descendant of an African-American.

    I’ll concede you a small section in the flatlands, where you can live, rely exclusively on other African-Americans, educate and support your own people. The rest of us will welcome change, the influx of tax dollars, work towards building better schools and institutuions, enjoy the growth and changing perception of oakland for the better.

    Let me know where that exclusive community is so I can avoid investment in it and ever going there. I suspect there won’t be much to go there and see if your community continues to decline. Perhaps you may have to take your issue out to Pittsburg, Antioch or further.

    Reply
  14. Kl

    This “discussion” is way off point and getting silly. I’m going to bring it back.

    Many people talk about the gentrification in Oakland. They accuse African Americans of not doing anything with the city. They suggest African Americans don’t deserve it.

    They believe we did not do what they think we should have done with our communities. They attribute this to lack of pride.

    That’s ignorant.

    In fact, African American Oakland has a rich history. For example, we had the Black Panthers in the 60s/70s. In addition, many considered Oakland the center of Black gay art and culture in the 90s.

    I am proud of this part of Oakland–and I refuse to erase it. I will bring it into any conversation on Oakland history and culture.

    Now I understand many people don’t want to hear about African American Oakland. They want to believe Oakland started with the “Oakland Renaissance” or the “New Oakland.” They want to hear about some mythical “diversity” or “collective population.” If that’s what they see, they should write about it.

    Reply
  15. Jonatton Yeah?

    African American culture isn’t Oakland culture. They are not one in the same. African Americans are not the only people affected by gentrification. They are not. Nobody is advocating for “your invisibility” nor is anyone saying Oakland started with “New Oakland.” Stop with the strawmen.

    You seem to have this idea in your head that we’re supposed to respect your history, your issues, and your ideas of what Oakland is, was, and should be without you bothering to wonder about the rest of Oakland thinks; their thoughts and ideas about where it’s going and where it was.

    Reply
  16. Eyes wide open

    Jonnatton- final a word of reason that acknowledges and identifies that ALL of us in Oakland are impacted (both negatively and positively) by the influx of new residents. It’s our duty to tease out the positives while mitigating the negatives so WE can ALL have a better Oakland. No one can claim that anyone of our people have not shaped collectively the culture of Oakland. I’m sure our ohlone and miwok bothers/sisters complained about each and everyone one of us- including African-Americans that some seem to believe is and should be the cultural identity and face of oakland.

    Reply
  17. ds

    I’d like to know if there are any “native” home owners who are unhappy that a foreclosure near them was bought by an investor? I doubt it.

    Reply
    • valeriewoakland

      Suggesting everyone loves investors? Are you kidding? The foreclosure on my block took a good neighbor couple whom I liked a lot. They lost the house they were rehabbing themselves when the husband was roughed up by OPD and injured so that he was unable to work (long story, but believe me, it never should have happened). The “investors” tried to do a lot of work without permit, and when we forced them to get permits, they tried to exceed the scope of the permit and do things (like pave almost the whole front yard to the fence line for parking) that violated the zoning codes. Investors don’t all wear superhero capes.

      Blaming Prop 13? What we really need is a tax structure where the rich (individuals and corporations) pay their fair share. I’m not going to blame the elderly widow down the block, or the retired working class guy who managed to save and buy a house 30 years ago. You buy a house on a budget (at least most of us do) and wild increases in paper value cannot be met by that buyer. The alternate is forcing people out of their homes.

      Reply
    • ds

      Well i’m not talking about whether or not the person should have been foreclosed on in the first place. That is unfortunate.

      However i’d suggest that even with the investor/owner who does not live there paving over the lawn because its much easier to maintain, its still by far the lesser of two evils.

      Would you not prefer that to having a house that sits derelict for months until squatters or copper thieves come and really wreck it making it so bad that nobody ever wants to buy it?

      Reply
      • valeriewoakland

        No. My block has gotten pretty good at calling the cops and the blight/code enforcement people. We don’t want to settle for being scammed and treated with arrogance.

  18. Len Raphael

    Regardless of what any of us like or dislike about gentrification, if we don’t develop a much bigger business business/sales tax and residential real estate tax base here in the next five years, there will be massive cuts and cutbacks in the number of City public employees in order to cover our over 1 Billion of retirement and other obligations.

    That means attracting bigger and more profitable businesses and more affluent residents who will spend more.

    Visit City Hall and you’ll see that many, and probably a majority of our city employees are African Americans. Many of them live here.

    Those City Hall cuts could be the nail in the coffin of the Oakland African American working class community.

    Reply
  19. Len Raphael

    You don’t hear the Oakland SEIU members speak out against gentrification at Council meetings because the SEIU is depending on the money from real estate transfer tax and from gentrifier spending at $3 donut shops and $15 dollar noodle bars to pay for their lost raises and to cover their retirement costs.

    Reply
  20. J

    With prop 13, long-term residents, especially those who have owned housing stock in west oakland for generations, add very little to city tax revenues. The city actually needs the influx of investors and gentrifiers to bring tax contributions to amounts that are actually noticeable.

    Reply
    • KL

      Yes, but if you re-read some of the earliest responses, some “gentrifiers” plainly don’t respect us or our ways.

      Do we want their money that badly?

      Reply
    • KL

      Also, the children need somewhere to play. However, they can’t play in the parks anymore. People walk their dogs in the park and the dogs defecate and urinate in the grass. What kid is going to want to roll in the grass?

      Reply
    • Jonatton Yeah?

      So now dogs doing their biological function in a park is not only a new problem, but it’s tied to gentrification. Jesus wept….

      Personally, I believe anyone should be able to live anywhere regardless of race, class, creed, ethnicity, sexuality, et cetera. But call me crazy. Some of the arguments, to be very loose with the word, basically boil down to, “we dont want X people in our neighborhood.” And who said irony is dead.

      The fact is that this is not a new problem. You think Uptown was built in a day? It wasn’t. New housing developments, street improvements, and renovation projects don’t get approved and rolled out overnight. They take years. And years. And years. But instead of engaging in community meetings about the subject countless years ago, I suppose it’s easier to just sulk and reminisce about a “Golden Age” of Oakland that never existed – you know, that time when dogs used the toilet.

      Reply
    • KL

      Jonatton, you finally wrote one thing that makes sense. You wrote:

      “we dont want X people in our neighborhood.” However, this has less to do with race, class and gender. It has more to do with attitude.

      No, I don’t want rude, entitled, arrogant people in my neighborhood. I don’t care what age, color, class, sexuality or gender. I don’t care if they increase the tax revenue.

      And yes, it is inconsiderate to have a dog defecate/urinate in the grass of a public park, no matter what breed.

      Because the dog owner “buys $3 donuts and supposedly increases the city’s tax revenue” does not make it less of a problem for our children.

      Reply
    • valeriewoaklalnd

      BTW, I’m not sure what you mean by “owning for generations.” Even under Prop 13, the property tax basis changes when the owner dies and the property passes to heirs. Heirs pay property taxes based on the valuation at the time they inherited, not on the value their late relatives paid.

      Reply
    • Jonatton Yeah?

      But you are the one who gets to decide what’s rude, arrogant, and entitled? No, that’s not rude, arrogant, and entitled at all. Nope, not at all.

      And of course it sucks to have animal mess in parks. I mean, duh. But that is not a new problem. It’s been a problem since dogs and parks were created. To dump that on gentrification and new residents goes beyond reaching and toes the line of flat out daft. 3$ donuts have nothing to do with it. Neither do 1$ donuts. Or free donuts.

      Speaking of entitlement. Don’t you think it’s a tad entitled that “native” residents, whatever that’s supposed to mean, think that they are the only ones entitled to affordable housing? Don’t you think it’s a tad arrogant to say “my neighborhood” as if you own it? Isn’t it a tad rude to disregard tax revenue that could help the City and its residents just because you “don’t care”?

      Reply
  21. Jonatton Yeah?

    I can hazard a guess at what’s next, “I guess it’s okay if they move next door but as long as they don’t marry my daughter.”

    Reply
  22. len raphael

    VW, real estate prop tax valuation does not go to market when certain categories of beneficiaries inherit. eg. daughters, sons. Similar screwy rationale as why corps and partnerships that have less than 50% change of ownership do not get increased real property taxes. Not sure about foreclosures by the lender but foreclosures and short sales to a totally now owner trigger revaluation to market (be it up or down). So even the speculator purchases of housing increases Oakland’s continuing tax revenue, business tax revenue if rented, and transfer tax revenue.

    (I’m now often cleaning up other people’s dog poop around Oakland Tech that I never saw there even 5 years ago.)

    Reply
  23. chris

    I welcome those who can afford to buy in Oakland. I’d prefer the type that settle down in Oakland though. I’ve been a homeowner in Oakland some 20+ years. In all those years, crime and schools and business development have been huge problems because no one really invested more than they had to in this City.

    But, the political fights always seem to be about how bad the police are (even though we need more of them), how poor schools are (even though we vote through bond measures every election day), and how more anti-poverty/health services are needed in the flat lands (and we have rent control and pass measures for such services nearly every election day).

    In some sense, it seems intractable. The City needs money, and voters vote for the measures to tax themselves (primarily through property taxes). We need to pay union wages and pensions (and one hopes those union employees live and play in Oakland too!), pay to keep schools properly funded with anti-poverty programs where needed, and pay to keep roads/infrastructure/parks maintained. The pieces seem to be there, but hipsters/gentrifiers or big investors buying property don’t seem to be the real problem. They at least have to pay property taxes (a foreclosed home does not pay taxes).

    All I know is we do not need another Mayor like Quan or Dellums, ugh.

    Reply
    • KL

      I have a different memories of Oakland.

      I remember playing in the yard with family and friends among fruit trees.

      I remember the Black Panthers. Later, I remember the Black gay community.

      Oakland was a sanctuary from a lot of the racism in San Francisco’s gay community. It’s interesting to read the comments here. Such comments were the very reason why we needed Oakland.

      True, Oakland had problems, but it was home.

      Reply
    • A

      KL,

      No offense, but you sound like the typical mature person that reminisces of the “Good Old days” but yet fail to realize ALL things change. The fact is, Oakland and every part of society is changing. Some good, some bad, but it’s something that IS going to happen.

      Oakland had some good things from the past, but it also has some really ugly things that have not been resolved and won’t be resolved by leaving things the way they are.

      What I find funny is that the long time residents who are scared of gentrification always want to individualize their experience/culture but then are very quick to generalize the people who come into their neighborhoods.

      Reply
  24. HDR

    I am a 20+ year resident and homeowner in the flatlands. Many of my neighbors are unemployed, underemployed, renters, direct much of their financial resources towards cars, rims, clothing, loud music, discard trash all over the street, party all days of the week, sell drugs, use profanity as their respective first language. Many of my neighbors are hardworking, prideful owners and renters, responsible and active citizens and community participants, role models, financial secure and savvy, and educated. My preference is to have the latter as my neighbor.

    We can reminisce about oaklands past and be stuck there or move on? Business models must change and adapt to current conditions. Was life better when downtown, uptown, etc was vacant and abandoned; and the only sign of life was homeless, druggies and prositution? Was life better when every time you wanted to buy something you had to go to a neighboring city? Was lake Merritt better when it was actually part of the sewer conveyance system.

    The reality is that someone finally realized the potential that oakland had and saw an opprotunity. Whether you have been here for a long time or today is your first day- something brought you here. I’d rather figure out how to work with the changes that are going on as opposed to obstructing them or watching them go by. Yes, there are all kinds of issues about equality, access and distribution; and these are and will be major challenges- but these issues exist regardless if there is investment in oakland or not.

    Instead of all this banter about race, new/old oaklanders, etc., I’d like to see constructive comments on how WE envision oakland and then figure out how to make it work.

    Reply
    • KL

      A,
      I am not offended by your comment, though I disagree with it. My comments started in response to negative comments on here about us natives/long term Oaklanders.

      Their attitudes were that Oakland had been a wasteland. We did not “mow our lawns” or “paint our houses.” We didn’t care about our communities, etc. These stereotypes are untrue. When I pointed out a reason I was proud of Oakland, I, not the negative commenters, got negative reactions.

      Ironically, these commenters/gentrifiers forget that they are now residents in those neighborhoods. They are part of that socioeconomic group. But, they seem to have a need to “separate” themselves from their neighbors by stereotyping and putting them down.

      And race belongs in this conversation. Before this gentrification, African Americans were very visible in Oakland. This was considered a “stigma” or hindrance to Oakland’s “potential.” Few gentrifiers will say that aloud, but I’ve had several of these conversations over the years. So I point it out on here.

      But when I bring up race here, there’s a rush to dismiss it.

      This is why my position has not changed during this discussion.

      Reply
  25. Jack

    Institute a tax on the speculative increase in land/housing values that these investment pools are after, and watch as prices stabilize and no bubble ever inflates.

    Housing is for living in, not for quick, speculative profits.

    Reply
  26. valeriewoakland

    I wish something like this *would* be adopted, though the monied interests are so entrenched in the real estate “industry” that I think it’s mostly a dream.

    A friend lived for Sweden for a year and said they have something similar. He said Swedes think American housing policies are crazy; they see housing as a basic right, and structure their public policy to keep speculation down and make sure everyone has decent housing. Their standard of living and life expectancy are higher than ours.

    Reply
  27. Willow

    There are already small business taxes on landlords on gross rental receipts in Oakland. Very few cities in the Bay Area do this. The gentrification in Oakland has been generally positive. Unfortunately a lot of minorities are being pushed out. I however cannot begrudge anyone who takes the risk of moving into often marginal neighborhoods and invest time and effort in making it better. The changes in West and North Oakland are well under way. I see similarities between Oakland and Brooklyn. It is going to get a lot more expensive. Oakland has the infrastructure and location. It is part of a larger economic ecosystem that in many ways is driving world economic growth. It is benefitting from the boom in SF and the Sillicon Valley and I ask why shouldn’t it?

    Reply
  28. Damion

    Hi, I’m a New Oaklander (but long time Bay Area resident).

    You’d probably look at me and think I’m one of “those hipsters”, and that’s fine. The reality is though, one of the big reasons my family and I moved to Oakland specifically was to avoid the unpleasant side effects of very things this article talks about — the mass absorption, price inflation, and monetizing of affordable housing, to say nothing of how it removes all character and community from an area. We’re not techie elites, we’re not entrepreneurs, we’re not SV nu-money. We just wanted a home, in a community, where we could raise our son, and maybe even become part of a solid community – and if there’s one thing Oakland has, it’s a solid community feeling.

    It took us several years of looking on and off, and finding a really really awesome (local & independent) realtor, before we found a place that wasn’t subjected to this phenomenon.

    Has anyone seen those signs touting “we buy homes! we pay cash!”? Well, those are the actual physical manifestations of companies coming in to your neighborhoods solely as profiteers, not as community members. They’re predatory, unethical, and do nothing to help the communities they land in. They buy at ruinous prices (oftentimes leaving people with payments still to be made), and either hold the properties for tax purposes, rental, or flipping. And when they do sell, it’s to the Tech Bus or Investment crowds – neither group known for their involvement in neighborhood issues.

    People buying homes to live in, and to join the community, is one thing, usually a positive thing. But people leveraging a broken market to profit from misfortune like these companies do? It’s abominable.

    Do I think Oakland would be better off the way it was 10 years ago? Nope. Oakland is undergoing an incredible renaissance, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long long time. But, and this is just my opinion, letting the “big money” buy the show may not be the best way to fuel it in the long term.

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