Race for 15th: Raquella Thaman wants housing solutions to focus on generational wealth

Berkeley attorney Raquella Thaman, a candidate for State Assembly in the 15th district. Photo: Guy Marzorati/KQED

This story is part of a series of profiles of candidates running for the 15th Assembly District. You can see all the profiles and news about this race here.

Unlike most of her competitors in this crowded State Assembly race, Raquella Thaman grew up in the East Bay district.

Standing outside of Berkeley High School, where she formerly taught, and Washington Elementary, where she and two of her children attended, Thaman emphasized the need for policies that keep families like hers in the area for generations.

“I want to have a community that my kids can afford to live in and where they would want to stay and send their kids to school,” she said.


Thaman currently works as an attorney with the Homeless Action Center, helping low-income residents navigate public benefits.

“People are looking for housing and there is nothing for people who don’t make a lot of money,” she said. “They have to live on the street.

Thaman did not enter the race until March, putting her behind the eight-ball in a field where candidates have been campaigning and fundraising since early 2017.

Housing is a top issue for the eleven remaining contestants, and Thaman hopes she can inject discussion of home ownership into a conversation cluttered with talk of rent control, zoning laws and transit-oriented housing.

“The way people build wealth is primarily by owning your own home and building equity,” Thaman said. “When someone with a low income pays a low rent it’s usually almost their entire income and it’s going into somebody else’s pocket.”

Thaman proposes to set aside units in new developments that low-income residents can purchase and create land trusts where the government can provide leases of housing at a lower rate.

She says she is encouraged by hearing more talk about policies that address long-term wealth during recent candidate forums.

“I’m really pleased with that and I’m hoping my pushing towards that had some some effect on the other candidates,” she added.

KQED pointed the microphone at Thaman. Listen below: