By Anne Makovec

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Officials in Oakland on Wednesday were touting a new program that’s helping increase the number of affordable rental units available for low-income families.

The program has helped double the number of low-income families that have been able to find housing in Oakland since the beginning of the year.

Section 8 housing availability took a nosedive over the past 5 years, with many landlords opting to double or triple their rents at market rate.

“The owners are business people, and at the end of the day, we want to make a return,” said landlord Jason Russell.

But over the last six months, Oakland has implemented a first of its kind in the nation revamp, so more landlords will play ball.

“It is difficult. There is a stigma about the program for the owners,” said Russell.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf brought three of the participating landlords to a news conference to try to spread the word on the changes, landlords who know what a hassle Section 8 in Oakland used to be.

“Like Oakland, we have to dig down and get tough,” said landlord Johnny Burks. “At the beginning, it was like taking the SAT test.”

Now, after a waiver from the federal government, Oakland is offering landlords rent money in between tenants for two months.

The city is also expediting inspections, giving signing bonuses to new landlords. 75 new landlords have joined the program since January first.

City officials assure them they’ll be getting market rate, while renters wont pay more than 30 percent of their income.

The Oakland Housing Authority uses $230 million dollars from the federal government to make up the difference.

The mayor hopes this program catches on.

“The housing crisis is a regional crisis. So we need other jurisdictions to take creative, innovative programs like this,” said Schaaf.

At this point, the program is slated to continue in Oakland indefinitely. The immediate goal is to get 300 new contracts before the end of the year.

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