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Oakland's mayor wants residents to house the homeless

Marisa Kendall, The Mercury News on

Published in Home and Consumer News

"We're not going anywhere," Cooperman said. "If they need anything, we're there to support the landlords and the tenant."

What Cooperman and Schaaf are suggesting isn't unheard-of. Berkeley Hills-based home-sharing nonprofit Safe Time connects people on the verge of homelessness with East Bay homeowners who have spare bedrooms. And Airbnb helps landlords house refugees and victims of natural disasters. But those programs ask for temporary commitments of a few months or less. Oakland landlords who accept Schaaf's 100 rooms challenge would be saddled with a new tenant indefinitely.

There are plenty of Oaklanders with extra space, but many say they rely on rental income from those spare rooms to help pay their own living expenses. Oakland has 2,252 active short-term rental units advertised on sites like Airbnb, the city reported in a January public workshop. There are 2,761 homeless living in the city, according to the most recent count, though experts agree that number is likely low.

Laura Foote Clark, executive director of housing advocacy group YIMBY Action, appreciates the spirit of Schaaf's idea, but said it's not a sustainable solution.

"We can't just yell at landlords to stop being interested in money," she said.

But Sophia DeWitt, program director of East Bay Housing Organizations, isn't ready to write it off.

 

"Every idea needs to be on the table," she said.

Since Schaaf's speech, more than two dozen people have reached out to the community services group to find out more about opening their homes, but so far, none have committed, Cooperman said.

Some in the community argue Schaaf should set an example by opening her own home.

"Why would anyone else do it if she wasn't willing to do it?" asked 48-year-old Judy Elkan, owner of the Mary Weather clothing store and art gallery in Oakland, and a member of the local Homeless Advocacy Working Group.

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