By Aaron Burnett, director of policy and civic engagement, featured on the Marin IJ
San Rafael faces a major displacement crisis in the Canal District. At 400 Canal St. and other buildings, residents are being displaced from their homes, neighborhood and county. This crisis is complicated and rooted in historic inequalities and structural racism, but one clear driver is the Canal’s designation as the only “opportunity zone” in Marin.
Opportunity zones were created by the federal government to stimulate economic growth in historically underserved areas. In the Canal, it has caused more nightmares than opportunity. Opportunity zone tax incentives attract opportunistic outside investors leading to rapid increases in rent and property value.
San Rafael’s relocation assistance program in the opportunity zone is helpful, but insufficient as a standalone anti-displacement measure. “Just cause” eviction protections, rent stabilization, anti-harassment rules, continued efforts to build affordable housing and support for tenant or nonprofit ownership of existing housing are necessary to ensure San Rafael’s most vulnerable residents remain in their homes and community.
Housing stability for low-income families is beneficial for all San Rafael residents. Housing stability prevents homelessness and improves family and community health and well-being. It also allows workers to live close to their jobs, increasing employment retention and productivity while reducing traffic. By implementing strong anti-displacement policies, our elected officials will guarantee that all residents, regardless of socioeconomic status, benefit from economic growth and development, and that no one is left behind.
Canal Alliance has been a dedicated supporter of Canal residents since 1982 and a valued partner of the City of San Rafael. We invite stakeholders from all sectors to work with us to ensure that the opportunity zone benefits the Canal community, rather than displacing our neighbors, friends and essential workers.
— Aaron Burnett, Canal Alliance director of policy and civic engagement
Read the story here.