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Miami "Condo King" Wants Berkeley's Public Housing
by Lynda Carson ( tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com )
Friday Dec 2nd, 2011 8:48 AM
A billion dollar for-profit corporation with links to the White House wants to buy Berkeley's occupied 75 public housing town-homes, in a deal that may displace many of Berkeley's poor from their long-time public housing units!

Miami "Condo King" Wants Berkeley's Public Housing

By Lynda Carson -- December 2, 2011

Berkeley -- Berkeley's low-income public housing residents are waiting to learn if their long-time public housing units will be sold to some out of state billionaires, and their billion dollar for-profit housing development corporation.

Billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross of The Related Companies, have set their sights on buying Berkeley's 75 occupied public housing units in a complicated deal that edged out local nonprofit housing developers recently. Many of Berkeley's low-income families may be displaced and placed at risk of homelessness, if the billionaires get their hands on Berkeley's public housing.

Jorge M. Perez, is known as the "Condo King" of Miami, Florida, because he has developed and owns so many condominiums in that region, through The Related Companies/Related Group. He is also known as a billionaire Cuban American real estate developer.

Perez is also the majority owner of The Related Companies, which is also the parent company of The Related Companies of California, LLC, another wealthy housing development corporation.

In recent years, Related suffered over $1 billion in losses, but remained so wealthy that it has managed to survive the unstable housing market.

After setting their sights on buying Berkeley's 75 public housing town-homes, as recent as September, 2011, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) announced that it has entered into an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with The Related Companies of California, LLC, that will last 90 days, with a possible 30 day extension to negotiate the full terms of the deal.

With political connections directly to the White House, Perez a co-founder of The Related Companies has been a major political fundraiser for President Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and was an advisor to ex-President Bill Clinton during his term in office.

In 2010, it was reported that Perez owned 75% of The Related Companies, and that billionaire Stephen M. Ross a 95% owner of the Miami Dolphins football franchise, owned 25% of the billion dollar development company.

During the past week, Berkeley's public housing tenants expressed concern about losing their long-time public housing units to some out of state billionaires.

Anne Marie Dent is disabled and resides in Berkeley's public housing. "I do not like what I am hearing about the takeover of our public housing. I am afraid of being displaced. I believe that it should remain as public housing. I do not think that billionaires should be allowed to grab our public housing. It is not fair. There are too many poor people in need currently, and public housing was never meant to be for billionaires."

When asked if she thought it was a good idea for a billionaire to get his hands on Berkeley's public housing units, Mary Lightfoot said no.

Public housing resident Anna Smith said, "All I know is that the rumors are going around, that the building I reside in is being sold to a billionaire that owns a football team. I heard that I would learn more details from the BHA sometime in March. I have lived here in public housing since 1992, and I was told that this was my home to raise a family in. Now I am being told that I will have to move. I have grand children living with me that are teenagers in school, and I do not know where I am going to go. I keep hearing about affordable housing projects. But what does that mean? Many people, including myself, cannot afford to reside in affordable housing projects, and there is no place left to go for poor people once all of our public housing is gone."

When asked what is planned next if the negotiations fail, the BHA's Project Manager, Kathleen Sims, said, "The BHA is in negotiation with The Related Companies of California, and until those negotiations are over I cannot say more about the next step the BHA will pursue with it's public housing units."

In the news, as recent as December 1, 2011, it was reported in the Miami Herald that Perez has agreed to donate $35 million in cash and art to the Miami Art Museum, resulting in a deal to have the museum renamed the Jorge M. Perez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County. Some of the board members of the museum objected to the deal and renaming of the museum, and three of the board members resigned in protest.

The Related Group's current portfolio has assets under development totaling more than $10.7 billion, and the company is best known for it's many luxury high-rise developments, according to their web site.

While billionaires, and the rich and powerful all across the nation are refusing to pay their fair share of taxes, it is ironic to many that the rich and powerful are standing in line to get their hands on our nations 1.2 million public housing units.

Meanwhile, Berkeley's public housing residents are waiting in anticipation to find out if their long-time public housing units will end up in the hands of the out of state billionaires.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com