Changing Cities Research Lab


Tackling Residential Instability in Oakland

Despite fifty years of legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in lending and housing, deep-rooted neighborhood inequalities continue to be a key structural barrier to racial equality in the United States. Policymakers have made progress mitigating gentrification-induced displacement by limiting evictions, but housing security is far from guaranteed for many.  Even before evictions or displacement take place, gentrification pushes residents to live in overcrowded conditions, substandard housing, and in financial precarity. In Oakland, approximately 50 percent of rental households are considered cost-burdened, where residents spend more than 30 percent of their household income on rent or mortgage costs. These burdens are disproportionately borne by people of color, worsening racial inequality.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbate existing income and racial inequalities: while crowding and financial instability were localized to certain neighborhoods in the past, the pandemic extended these trends to more areas across Oakland. These conditions are often precursors to displacement and have far-reaching consequences, affecting individuals’ physical and mental health, community well-being, educational attainment, and social mobility, all of which exacerbate racial inequality.

To tackle residential instability before and beyond displacement, the Changing Cities Research Lab, a team of scholars and students from Stanford, is partnering with the City of Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Together, they will use innovative data and analysis to understand how racial disparities and issues of residential instability, like tenant harassment and overcrowding, affect where and how people live, whether they must move, and what happens afterwards.

The lab builds on prior work led by Stanford sociology professor Jackelyn Hwang which analyzes trends in residential instability in Oakland over the last 20 years. Directed by Shola Olatoye, the City of Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development incorporated this work into its strategic action plan. (The project was also supported by Jackelyn Hwang’s participation in the Stanford Impact Labs Design Fellowship). 

Their collaboration combines research, city government leadership, and community engagement to develop evidence-based insights and interventions that Oakland—and other U.S. cities—can use to improve residential stability and racial equity.


Changing Cities Research Lab

  • Jackelyn Hwang, Changing Cities Research Lab Director and Assistant Professor in Stanford Sociology
  • Vasudha Kumar, Project Lead and Predoctoral Social Science Research Analyst
  • Iris Zhang, PhD Candidate and Researcher

Department of Housing and Community Development at the City of Oakland

  • Shola Olatoye, Director
  • Christina Mun, Deputy Director

For more information, please contact: 

Dr. Jackelyn Hwang at or