Strengthening Code Enforcement for Safer Housing

Oakland seeks to prioritize safety and affordable housing simultaneously, aiding in the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the city continues to see a proliferation of living situations that are not compliant with municipal building codes and safety standards. In response, the city has enacted a number of policies to increase staffing and improve technology for building inspections and code enforcement. As part of these efforts, the city is exploring the revival of a program that inspects rental properties proactively, taking the burden off of residents to report poor living conditions. Working with the Department of Planning and Building, FUSE Executive Fellow Alicia Polak brought the program up-to-date by revising operating procedures, ensuring the program is equitable, and creating a path to implementation. To do this, Alicia researched best practices in other cities, counties, and states. She worked with key stakeholders and city experts to develop enforcement services and standard operating procedures, and she incorporated racial equity principles from her training into the program. Alicia is continuing to help with affordable housing by assessing how the department’s land-use management system can be modified to improve code enforcement workflows, case management, and data record keeping. She is also exploring how the system can support the needs of relevant departments and provide transparency to the public.