Housing Project in Oakland Fails to Start

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a long-standing attempt to build affordable public housing near the Coliseum BART station in East Oakland is all but dead. Beginning in 2003, the plan was to turn a large parking lot near the light rail station into a housing village with shops. It was supposed to house 10,000 square feet of retail space and hundreds of apartments. The most recent projections brought the plan down to 1,00 square feet of retail and only 110 apartments.

The problem stems from the failure and collapse of the non-profit group originally founded to move the project forward. Called the Oakland Economic Development Corp. (OEDC), the group was given a $400,000 grant as recently as 2013. There was no interest and they had 55 years to pay it back, which they didn’t have to start doing until the housing project started to turn a profit.

Before that grant though, the project was little more than an idea, and since then, the OEDC has not only spent all the money with nothing to show for it, but has also lost their non-profit status after failing to file taxes for three years straight.

In addition, the city received an $8.5 million dollar grant from California to get the project built, but if it isn’t done by 2017, they lose that money. And, because it came from a millage that expires soon, they can’t transfer that money to other projects.

Oakland is missing out on a huge project, which could have given hundreds of families new, affordable homes, and boosted the local economy, because of oversight and poor planning. The OEDC didn’t keep up their end of the bargain, and now the city is almost half a million dollars poorer for it.

Non-profit ventures, like OEDC was supposed to be, can be valuable, and they can do good work. But like any kind of business venture, they can also be utter failures. Most likely, the space this project would have occupied will end up being parceled off to out-of-state investors.