Residential Instability in the City of Oakland and Implications for Data-Driven Policymaking
As part of our research on residential instability in the Bay Area, we partnered with the City of Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to explore residential instability and racial inequities resulting from gentrification and housing unaffordability.
Oakland is the third largest city in the Bay Area and home to over 425,000 residents. Over the last two decades, the city has experienced widespread gentrification, and its population changed dramatically by race and class. While Oakland’s white and Hispanic populations and share of highly-educated residents grew dramatically, its Black population declined by over one-third.
We analyzed data on mobility and financial health from 2002-2020 from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax Data to better understand how neighborhoods and residential instability changed over time in the City of Oakland and to identify potential areas of vulnerability from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report of our findings informed the HCD’s 2021-2023 Strategic Action Plan.
Here are some key findings from our research along with considerations for policy and practice.
During the housing boom and bust, Oakland residents across all socioeconomic status (SES) groups moved more frequently.
Figure 1 displays the percent of Oakland residents who moved out of their census block group by housing period and socioeconomic (SES) category.1 Our measure of SES is based on Equifax Risk Scores, a type of credit score, so SES in our analysis approximates financial stability rather than income or wealth. The high rates of moving before and during the Great Recession may be due to forces that pushed residents to new places, such as the proliferation of subprime lending, as well as foreclosures and financial insecurity brought on by the economic fallout. Additionally, the frequent moves may have resulted in high rates of in-moving by high-SES residents after the Great Recession, sometimes referred to as “replacement.”
Following the Great Recession, Oakland residents moved much less than before, yet low-, moderate-, and middle-SES residents consistently moved at or above national rates.
During this time, Oakland residents that were moderate- and middle-SES moved the most (see Figure 1).2
Moderate-SES residents may need more protections
After the housing market recovered, the percentage of moderate-SES residents who moved and the percentage of moderate-SES residents who became delinquent on a credit account increased. These findings suggest the need for increased displacement protections for moderate-SES residents and continued support for efforts that mitigate the displacement of low-SES residents. Housing opportunities must also be provided and targeted for low- and moderate-SES residents.
Although low-SES residents move less, they appear to be increasingly constrained
Low-SES residents moved less after the Great Recession and less than moderate- and middle-SES residents, but they disproportionately and increasingly moved out of Oakland and the Bay Area altogether at high rates, increasingly moved to households with more adults, and increasingly moved to lower-opportunity neighborhoods.
While low-SES residents may be benefiting from policies that prevent displacement or resorting to other strategies to avoid moving, residential instability could be further mitigated by additional policies that ensure the well-being of residents who, for example, enter crowded households or become more financially-burdened.
Housing instability varied by SES and neighborhood
In Downtown and North Oakland, lower-SES residents are more likely to move from their homes, whereas in Deep East and West Oakland, lower-SES residents are more likely to live in crowded housing and experience financial instability.
Figure 2 displays maps of moving rates over time for low-, moderate-, and middle-SES populations (Figure 2a) and maps of the share of low-, moderate-, and middle-SES residents in households that become delinquent on a credit account (Figure 2b) across Oakland. Maps of residents living in households with four or more adults look similar to the maps of new delinquencies.
Low- and moderate-SES residents are moving into Oakland at lower rates and are moving to fewer parts of Oakland.
When we examined where people are moving to by SES, we found that low- and moderate-SES residents who moved within Oakland or to Oakland moved to increasingly fewer places over time. They increasingly concentrated in Deep East Oakland and parts of West Oakland. This may reflect the need for more affordable options for low- and moderate-SES residents throughout Oakland.
Low-SES residents have been able to remain in place during the pandemic, but residents are exhibiting other forms of constraints.
Low-SES residents moved at substantially lower rates than before the pandemic, but moderate-, middle-, and high-SES residents moved more. Figure 3 compares annual move rates, including moves out of Oakland and the Bay Area, by SES based on residents’ location on September 1st of each year. Figure 4 compares the percentages of people in households with 1-2 adults who moved to households with at least four adults, the percent of households who became delinquent on any credit account, and the percent of moderate-, middle-, or high-SES residents who shifted to the low-SES category. These comparisons are based on changes over 9 months (June 1, 2019 to March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2020 to December 1, 2020).
During the pandemic low-SES residents moved at substantially lower rates than before but also appear more constrained than after the Great Recession.
Based on data from the Great Recession, we predicted that moves and constrained moves would be concentrated in the Downtown Oakland and Temascal areas and that financial and neighborhood instability would be concentrated in Deep East Oakland. However, the data from 2020 reveal that moves into crowded households and financial instability are more widespread and more frequent across Oakland compared to before the pandemic and our predictions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that it is now more important than ever to continue monitoring vulnerable areas for displacement and disinvestment to support quality and affordable housing. To quote Shola Olatoye, the Director of Housing & Community Development at the City of Oakland, “the results of this timely study will guide Oakland’s housing work towards a more equitable recovery.”
Acknowledgement: The authors thank Brooke Ada Tran and Alisha Zhao for her research assistance.
1. Analysis of population distributions using data from the Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) for the City of Oakland suggest that our SES categories are similar to the following HUD AMI categories, respectively: <30% AMI (“extremely low”, as labeled by the State of California), between 30% and 50% AMI (“very low”), between 50% and 100% AMI (“low” and “moderate”), and above 100% AMI (“high”).
2. The national average rates of annual moving were 14% during the housing Boom (2002-2006), 12% during the Bust (2007-2009), 12% during the Recovery (2010-2014), and 11% during the Post-Recovery (2015-2017).
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