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Indybay Feature
Trouble for Section 8 tenants of Alameda County
by Lynda Carson (tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com)
Sunday Jan 16th, 2005 2:58 AM
The National Housing Conference, A Non-Profit Housing Organization, Held Their Latest Conference In Walnut Creek Recently, And Declined To Oppose The Bush Administration's Proposed Flexible Voucher Program That Will Put Tens Of Thousands At Risk Of Becoming Homeless If Implemented!
Trouble for Section 8 tenants of Alameda County

By Lynda Carson January 16, 2005

Oakland CA- On Wednesday January 12, Alameda County Housing Authority's Executive Director, Ophelia Basgal, shocked a number of members from the National Housing Conference (NHC), when she expressed her acceptance of the Bush Administration's plan to gut the Section 8 program. Housing Authority director, Ophelia Basgal, came off as though it is already a done deal, and everyone may as well accept it, said one of the shocked members from the conference.

Acting as a shill for the Bush administration's scheme to gut the Section 8 program, the Housing Authority director started out by saying that the Section 8 program needs to be reformed. Ophelia Basgal pointed to the City of Chicago as an example of some of the problems within the program, as she tried to convince a room of 30 NHC members that the Section 8 budget is so out of control, that fraud is rampant. Basgal made it clear to the crowd of listeners that she supports the policies of the Bush administration in it's efforts to gut the Section 8 program, and is vigorously looking for ways to meet those goals as soon as possible.

Some of those goals may include the taking of housing vouchers from the poorest of the poor and handing them over to wealthier tenants or families. Another goal would be to set time limits on how long a family or tenant may use a housing voucher, no matter how desperate their housing situation may be. Another goal when possible, would be to make full use of the Bush administration's proposed Flexible Voucher Program, that has already been rejected, condemned and denounced by housing activists across the country as being inhumane to the low-income families of America.

Lucinda Rosman, a Section 8 activist of Alameda, is horrified to hear of what was being said at the NHC conference in Walnut Creek last Wednesday.

Rosman said, "As a housing authority director, Ophelia Basgal, should know better than to support the Bush administration's schemes to hurt low-income families in the Section 8 program. We just had a housing disaster in Alameda recently due to budget cuts in the program, and some of those tenants may have transferred to become Section 8 tenants in Alameda County as a result. Lets not see them get hurt again."

"She should not take vouchers away from the poorest tenants to give to wealthier tenants, because that is not what the Section 8 program is all about, and it would be an immoral act to do so. Some 80% of the people in the Section 8 program have no means to pay their rents if time limits threaten their housing, and Ophelia Basgal is fully aware of this," Rosman said.

This latest development does not bode well at all for the Section 8 tenants of Alameda County, whom fully depend upon the director of the housing authority to know the difference between right and wrong. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson and the Bush administration have come under fire during the past year for their efforts to gut the Section 8 program, and the Section 8 tenants of Alameda County would not be well served at all by a housing director that happens to support such draconian policies that have been proposed, including policies that have already harmed tens of thousands of families across the nation.

The Alameda County Housing Authority is located on Atherton St., in Hayward, and administers to around 5,562 Section 8 housing units, as well as around 232 units of public housing.

THE NATIONAL HOUSING CONFERENCE

Conrad Egan, is the President & CEO, of the National Housing Conference. The home page of the NHC states; "The National Housing Conference is a coalition of housing leaders from the private and public sectors that believes that every American, regardless of income, should have the opportunity to live in a suitable neighborhood. Since 1931, NHC has been the United Voice for Housing."

In another part of the NHC webpage, it states;
"The United Voice for Housing--The National Housing Conference is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership association dedicated to advancing affordable housing and community development causes. A membership drawn from every industry segment forms the foundation for NHC’s broad, nonpartisan advocacy for national policies and legislation that promote suitable housing in a safe, decent environment across the nation. NHC members consist of nationally known experts in affordable housing and housing finance, including state and local officials, community development specialists, builders, bankers, investors, syndicators, insurers, owners, residents, labor leaders, lawyers, accountants, architects and planners, and religious leaders. NHC is the United Voice for Housing."

The National Housing Conference has held several meetings in California recently to discuss numerous issues related to housing and development. One meeting was held in Los Angeles on January 11, at The Regency Club on Wilshire Blvd, and the other was held at the PMI Plaza in Walnut Creek. The PMI Mortgage Company allowed the NHC to hold it's meeting in one of their conference rooms at 3003 Oak Rd, on Wednesday January 12. Around 30 members, mostly directors of companies and organizations, showed up for the one day affair, including Ophelia Basgal of the Alameda County Housing Authority.

The members joined together in the large conference room, where four long tables were set up in a square, and the members were allowed to speak freely when their turn came in regards to the agenda items of their concern. The Section 8 issue, was only one of the items on the agenda for that day.

During a fifteen minute break in the conference, the members went to an adjoining room where the NHC members were served a sumptious meal of sandwich halves including roast beef and turkey with cheese, plus several salads, a platter of vegeterian food, and a variety of chocolates for desert.

While the subject of Section 8 housing came up at the January 12 NHC conference at PMI, a number of NHC members spoke out in opposition to the proposed Flexible Voucher Program of the Bush administration, and some members repeatedly asked the NHC's Executive Director, Conrad Egan, to publicly make a stand and speakout in opposition to the gutting of the Section 8 program by HUD and the Bush administration.

Some of the members even felt a little better when Julie Spezia of Housing California, spoke out passionately in opposition to the proposed cuts in the Section 8 program.

NHC's, Conrad Egan, steadfastly ducked and side-stepped the requests to oppose HUD and the Bush administration, and declined to state that he and the NHC is in opposition to the Bush administration's proposed Flexible Voucher Program or any other cuts to the program. NHC's President Egan, even went as far as to say that what is being said in this room, needs to stay in this room.

Numerous members of the NHC conference were extremely disappointed that NHC's President, Conrad Egan, declined to make a stand in opposition to the proposed cuts to the Section 8 program by the Bush administration and believe that the full weight of the NHC would make a difference in the struggle to save low-income renters from the proposed Flexible Voucher Program.

According to one member at the meeting, NHC's Conrad Egan, did go as far as to tell the NHC members to focus on lobbying the Republicans, and to forget about the Democrats who already oppose the Bush position to gut the Section 8 program. The NHC members had then agreed to lobby Jerry Lewis (Republican) of Southern California, in an effort to stop the proposed funding cuts to the Section 8 program. Jerry Lewis has served 13 times in the House of Representatives, and in early January 2005, has been selected as the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Among the 30 members attending the January 12 NHC conference, it included independant housing consultant, Dave Coury of Marin County, Alex Sanchez who is the Executive Director of San Jose's Housing Authority, Ophelia Basgal of the Alameda County Housing Authority, several members from HUD's regional office, Julie Spezia the Executive Director of Housing California, Betty Pagett of EAH in Marin County, as well as a host of other directors from housing organizations and lending institutions in Northern California.

Section 8 families across the country are alarmed by the secrecy of the NHC and the other housing officials that are having secret meetings behind closed doors that are meant keep them in the dark.

The nearly 2 million families in the Section 8 program want these housing directors to standup in opposition to the proposed cuts going on in the nations housing programs, and have been outraged at being double crossed by HUD and the Bush administration recently when their Section 8 contracts have been sabotaged all across the nation.

The regional directors of HUD and the directors from some of these sanctimonious housing organizations have made a very comfortable living for themselves from the Section 8 program, and are now selling out the low-income tenants to the agressive policies of the Bush administration, which are anti-poor.

The directors of these housing organizations and Housing Authorities make around $100,000 or more a year from exploiting the Section 8 program, and if the Bush administration wants them to dump the poor out of their housing in exchange for higher income renters, it's no sweat to them. Their salaries all remain the same, as long as they follow orders to dump the poor out of their housing. Some may even receive an extra bonus if they can make the poor homeless at an ever faster pace than what the Bush administration requires.

The directors of the nations Housing Authority's and housing organizations have a responsibliity to stand on their own two feet in opposition to the Bush administration's attacks upon the poor. The NHC's Executive Director, Conrad Egan, has a duty to make a public statement telling the low-income renters of America that the NHC fully supports them and condemns the proposed Flexible Voucher Program in any way, shape or form. The fate of America's low-income renters rest in the hands of the housing authorities and housing organizations that have profited handsomely by the Section 8 program these past 30 years, and at this point the low-income renters in the Section 8 program are very concerned about their future.

By deadline of this story, some that I tried to reach for comment were not available.

Conrad Egan of the NHC may be reached at; nhc [at] nhc.org

Alameda County Housing Authority Director, Ophelia Basgal, may be reached at: info [at] haca.net

Julie Spezia may be reached at; jspezia [at] housingca.org

Alex Sanchez of the San Jose Housing Authority may be reached at; cityofsanjoseha [at] hacsc.org

Lynda Carson may be reached at 510/763-1085 or TenAntsRule [at] yahoo.com .
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