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Indybay Feature

Stealing public housing from Oakland's poor

by Lynda Carson (tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com)
The taking of Oakland's public housing units is moving another step forward through the LHAP proposals being promoted by the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA), which will facilitate in the taking of over 1,600 public housing units, from Oakland's poor! The OHA's Board of Commissioners will conduct a Public Hearing on the draft proposals for the "Local Housing Assistance Program" (LHAP) at the OHA's main office on Monday, September 28, at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Room, 1619 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA. All who are interested in saving and preserving Oakland's occupied public housing units from the plan to dispose of more than 1,600 public housing units, are invited to speak out against the OHA's "LHAP" proposal! Written opposition to the disposition/LHAP proposals must be received by the OHA by 3:00 pm on October 2, 2009.


Stealing public housing from Oakland's poor

By Lynda Carson September 28, 2009

Oakland -- On Monday September 28, at 6:00 p.m., there will be a hearing at the Oakland Housing Authority in the commissioners meeting room that is designed to assist in the further taking of Oakland's public housing units from the poor, through the promotion of the proposed LHAP (program) being discussed to facilitate the disposition of over 1,600 public housing units, from Oakland's poor.

Terri (real person) is a middle aged poor black homeless woman on General Assistance, who was lucky enough to find a one bedroom public housing unit on Kirkham St., in West Oakland, for only $61.00 per month for rent, including the security deposit.

After waiting for two years on Oakland's public housing waiting list, Terri was notified during the past week by the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) that a one bedroom apartment became available for her.

With no other means of support other than General Assistance (GA) which only aids indigent adults with a maximum cash grant of $336.00 per month in Alameda County, Terri feels extremely grateful that public housing exists to help people like her to get off the streets, and into some housing of their own.

Even the worst of Oakland's crime ridden bed bug infested hotels charge way more than what GA recipients can afford on a monthly basis for rent, and most notorious so-called non profit housing organizations refuse to rent to the poor unless they have Section 8 vouchers that can be exploited, or have a minimum income of around $1,000.00 per month, or more.

Without public housing, there would be no housing available for Terri or millions of others like her across the nation who are down on their luck, lack enough skills to compete on the open job market, or do not have the minimum high school diploma needed to become eligible for the lowest of low-end paying jobs in society.

Terri says, "I think public housing is a very good thing because it helps out low-income families who need a place to live, and have no other place to reside in."

Like millions of others across the nation, Terri has been left hopeless and homeless in a brutal dog eat dog capitalist society that gives no mercy to those that have been tossed into the trash bins of society, and are left to wither away along the path of starvation, misery and death, until a lucky break occurs such as a public housing unit opening up, that finally offers them some solace and salvation from the violent desperate streets of harsh economic times.

Meanwhile, long time Oakland low-income renter Benjamin Fulcher is very concerned about the plans to dispose of more than 1,600 public housing units in Oakland, and said, "Getting rid of public housing is a bad thing. Where is everyone to go who needs public housing in the future? There is no replacement for public housing, and there never has been. These holdouts in the housing authority and their partners in the so-called non profit housing sector have been corrupted by eight years of the Bush Regime and are shortsighted people who are profiting through their partnerships taking place, to steal Oakland's public housing away from the poor."

When considering the dire housing situation for the homeless and working class poor across the nation, it raises a lot of questions as to why Oakland is on the fast track to dispose of and eliminate it's much needed public housing units that serve the needs of low-income households like Terri's and thousands of others like her, in this ever deepening economic depression.


The Disposition Plan For Over 1,600 Oakland Public Housing Units

Oakland has over 3,300 public housing units and the plan to privatize half of it's public housing units through the disposition plan, is a scheme meant to enrich others at the expense of stealing public housing units from Oakland's poor.

Currently, the OHA contracts with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide public housing to low-income households in Oakland and is reimbursed by HUD for around $500 per public housing unit on a monthly basis.

But under the new Section 8 model being promoted to end public housing, the OHA and their affiliates may be reimbursed by HUD for as much as $900 to $1,000 for the same rental units if the plan works out to their way of thinking. Unfortunately for the poor, this scheme results in the loss of Oakland's desperately needed public housing units, and in the future public housing will be one less option for the homeless needing a place to call home.

In a nut shell, the OHA wants to determine which of it's small scattered public housing sites that are occupied with very low-income households, will be sold off, so that the proceeds can be used to build much larger privatized mixed income housing projects for higher income residents, like the Hope Vl mixed income housing projects that have displaced the poor all across the nation.

For the plan to succeed, the OHA wants to convince public housing tenants to trade in their rights to public housing, for a Section 8 housing voucher, and will try to explain to the low-income households what their options are once they no longer are public housing residents.

As an example, public housing tenants may still reside in federally subsidized public housing units if they receive an increase in their salary while on the job, but Section 8 voucher holders may lose their voucher (housing subsidies) at times, if and when they receive increases in their income that affect their eligibility to remain in the program.

The disposition plan for over 1,600 public housing units owned and operated by the OHA, signals the end of public housing as we know it if other Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) follow suit and switch to the Section 8 model being promoted by the OHA for the disposal of it's occupied public housing units.

As for the OHA's plan to dispose of over 1,600 public housing units, in a September 2008 press release from OHA consultant Jo Ann Driscoll around a year ago, it states, "The OHA has been under funded by the federal government for 14 years, creating a significant backlog of maintenance and repair projects. While the federal government cuts its funding of the public housing program, funding for Section 8 vouchers receives strong federal support. The planned disposition will re-position Oaklands scattered site apartments to be funded by Section 8 instead of Public Housing."

"As part of the disposition plan, OHA will transfer ownership of the properties to a registered 501(c)(3) housing organization, that will be affiliated with the Housing Authority. The non-profit affiliate will be responsible for the management and maintenance of all the units on sites scattered throughout the City of Oakland and work closely with the OHA under binding agreements. Any excess cash flow associated with these properties, not needed for operation, maintenance or repair, will be restricted to use by the OHA to develop new low income housing."

In a nut shell, the disposition plan amounts to being one huge kickback scheme, intended to siphon away precious federal housing assistance dollars from the poor low-income tenants in the Section 8 voucher program, and divert those precious resources to properties owned by the OHA and their affiliates.

As OHA Director Jon Gresley put it in a recent Oakland Tribune article, "The extra money will be used to finish rehabilitating the agency's aging and in many cases, blighted and crime-plagued housing stock, which is estimated to cost $100 million. The money will also be used for management of the properties. We're hoping they (public housing tenants with Section 8 vouchers) don't move and stay where they are at, but there will be some who want to leave. There are people who have been living for 10 or 15 years in one community and wanted to leave but couldn't get a voucher in the community where they wanted to move. These (vouchers) are portable so they can be used anywhere in the open private real estate market."

The end result of this process will mean that there will be less money in the budget for existing low-income Section 8 voucher holders during a severe funding crisis that currently exists in the program all across the nation, and will further result in the loss of public housing units for the poor in Oakland.

The disposition plan is a proposal that defies the best interests of Oakland's low-income public housing and Section 8 renters, being placed at risk by the OHA and their affiliates seeking higher revenues for their prospective organizations.


LHAP Will Facilitate The Plan To Dispose Of Oakland's Public Housing Units

The OHA's Board of Commissioners will conduct a Public Hearing on the draft proposals for the "Local Housing Assistance Program" (LHAP) at the OHA's main office on Monday, September 28, at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Room, 1619 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA.

The public is welcome to speak out against the plans to dispose of Oakland's public housing at this meeting, by speaking out in opposition to the proposals and plans to implement LHAP by the OHA, which facilitates in the disposal of Oakland's public housing units.

The LHAP proposal is designed to allow the OHA to provide a seamless transition in the disposal of Oakland's public housing units currently occupied by Oakland's poor, and will be funded through the OHA's Moving To Work (MTW) program's local fund reserves, and not directly from HUD's Section 8 annual contributions contract, or operating subsidies for Oakland's public housing program.

In addition, the LHAP is totally designed to get around the normal rules and regulations that currently apply to most other Public Housing Authorities across the nation that are intended to protect existing public housing and Section 8 renters in those programs, and will result in placing Oakland's public housing and Section 8 renters at risk if LHAP is allowed to proceed as is being proposed.

Currently, the economy is currently so bad, during mid September the OHA opened it's waiting list for public housing and project-based Section 8 properties to the poor, and a total of 93,654 pre-applications were submitted to the agency by low-income households seeking subsidized housing.

The disposal of Oakland's public housing units and the accompanying LHAP proposal will result in longer waits for those trying to move into public housing units or assistance through the Section 8 voucher program.

In a nut shell, LHAP is a recipe for disaster to low-income Oakland families that depend on public housing to exist for them in future generations to come, and is against the best interests of the poor.

According to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), the federal public housing program was created by the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, and is currently home to almost 3 million seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families with children; approximately one million children live in public housing.  

As a simple reminder as to why Oakland should be active in the pursuit of protecting it's public housing while seeking full funding from congress to properly maintain and preserve it, rather than embarking on a desperate scheme to dispose it's public housing units, it should be noted that more than half (52%) of all public housing residents are elderly or people with disabilities.

Anyone interested in preserving and saving Oakland's public housing units from the disposition plan, is welcome to speak out in opposition to the LHAP proposal at the 6:00 pm, September 28, OHA commissioners meeting, and by sending your written comments to OHA's, Mark Stephenson, Director of Leased Housing, 1805 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA. 94612

Written comments for or against the LHAP proposal meant to facilitate the disposal of Oakland's public housing units, must be received by 3:00 pm on October 2, 2009.

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