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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Health, Housing, and Public Services
BHA's public housing residents were not informed of their rights
BHA's public housing residents were not informed of their rights, when served notice and after being sent notice of the BHA's plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units!
BHA's public housing residents were not informed of their rights
By Lynda Carson -- March 29, 2010
Berkeley -- The Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) did not inform it's public housing residents that they are protected by Berkeley's good cause rent laws that state it is not a good cause to evict, when a landlord (including the BHA) wants to sell an occupied residential rental property in Berkeley.
In addition, the BHA did not inform the public housing residents that they have the right to refuse to sign anything that materially changes the terms of their existing contracts, that would eliminate or void their eviction protections, under Berkeley's local good cause rent laws.
During late December 2009, the BHA filed a disposition plan with HUD to announce that the BHA intends to terminate it's public housing program, and sell it's occupied public housing units to a developer.
To fulfill a federal disposition requirement, in a BHA October 27, 2009, notice and information packet sent to Berkeley's public housing residents, including a public relations informational brochure titled "Berkeley Housing Authority Preservation Plan -- Questions and Answers," the BHA legally informed Berkeley's public housing residents of the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units to a local developer. The BHA also mentioned that all the public housing residents will be displaced from their housing, as a direct result of the scheme to sell their public housing units.
However, when doing so, the BHA failed to inform Berkeley's public housing residents that it is illegal for landlords to evict their residents when selling occupied residential buildings in Berkeley, and that this law also applies to the BHA.
The disposition plan (application DDA0003874) was filed by the BHA in late December 2009, is currently under review by Arona Wiley, and the BHA is expecting the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) to approve the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units, sometime in April, 2010.
Furthermore, documentation exists revealing that the BHA tried to compromise or may have compromised some attorneys with the East Bay Community Law Center and Bay Area Legal Aid, when the BHA invited members of the local law firms that represent low-income renters to a private meeting, to discuss the proposed sale of Berkeley's public housing properties. Berkeley's many public housing tenants were not at this meeting.
The BHA was well aware before the meeting, that the public housing residents may need future assistance and legal representation from either of the law firms representing low-income renters, if or when the tenants chose to fight back against any attempts by the BHA to evict or relocate them from their housing, because of the BHA's plan to sell it's 75 public housing units.
For legal purposes, most or all of Berkeley's public housing residents should have been at this private meeting between the BHA and the local law firms that are representing the Bay Areas low-income renters, while the discussions took place regarding the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units. At this point, the tenants could have been immediately informed by the law firms representing tenants, that landlords are not allowed to evict, when selling residential properties in Berkeley, including the Berkeley Housing Authority.
During a discussion with Gracie Jones of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) on March 29, 2010, when I asked why Berkeley's public housing tenants were not informed that it is illegal for landlords (including the BHA) to evict their renters when selling a property in Berkeley, Ms. Jones stated that no public housing residents were at the BHA's meeting that day.
Records reveal that 2 informational meetings were held by the BHA on Nov. 3, 2009, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, where the public housing residents were additionally informed about the BHA's plan to sell it's 75 public housing units, and the BHA's plan to displace the public housing residents from their long-time homes as a direct result.
During the Nov. 3, 2009, 1:30pm BHA meeting, 26 residents appeared, and during the second meeting on Nov. 3, 2009, only 18 public housing residents appeared. Additionally, in the minutes from those public meetings it was recorded that Berkeley's public housing tenants said that they believe they are being kicked out of their public housing by the efforts to gentrify Berkeley, that they were victims of the previous council, that their rights are being violated, and that they do not trust the Berkeley Housing Authority.
However, in a stunning bizarre development, public documents also reveal that the BHA and it's relocation (displacement) consultant Overland, Pacific and Cutler (OPC), had also met privately with members of the legal services advocacy community on Nov. 3, 2009 (a 3rd BHA meeting on Nov.3, 2009).
In this meeting, members of Bay Area Legal Services (Bay Legal), East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) joined the BHA and it's consultants for a discussion about the BHA's plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units.
When I asked Ms. Jones who else attended the private Nov. 3, 2009, BHA meeting, she stated that Lisa Grief of Bay Area Legal Services was at the same meeting, but stated that she could not recall who else attended the meeting.
Indeed, public records reveal that on Nov. 3, 2009, low-income renter legal representatives Lisa Grief (Bay Legal), Gracie Jones (EBCLC), Sharon Djernal (EBCLC), and Catherine Bishop (NHLP) were all at the BHA's little private meeting, when Berkeley's many public housing residents were not present at the meeting. Others at the BHA's little meeting included BHA consultants Eric Novak of Praxis Consulting, and BHA displacement consultant Chad Wakefield of OPC.
No one picked up the phone at Bay Area Legal Services when I repeatedly called to inquire further into the private Nov. 3, 2009, BHA meeting that included members of Bay Area Legal Services, East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and the National Housing Law Project (NHLP).
Documents also reveal that the BHA intentionally used members of the legal services advocacy community and Berkeley's public housing residents in it's all out push to convince HUD to approve the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units.
Records reveal that the BHA sent copies to HUD, of all the the sign-in sheets that were signed by people who appeared at the three Nov. 3, 2009, BHA meetings. Another breach of trust by the BHA, to all who were not informed in advance that copies of the sign-in sheets would be sent to HUD by the BHA, in the effort to pressure HUD into approving the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing units.
In addition, during my discussion with Ms. Jones, she also stated that she knows it is illegal for landlords to evict tenants in Berkeley when trying to sell a property (including landlord BHA), and she further stated that if I hear of any public housing tenants facing eviction from their housing because the BHA wants to sell it's public housing units, that I should tell the tenants to immediately call the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC).
Additionally, I also asked Ms. Jones when the EBCLC plans to serve notices to Berkeley's public housing residents to let them know that it is illegal for landlords to evict in Berkeley when trying to sell their residential buildings, and asked her when the tenants would be informed that they do not have to sign anything if they do not want to, regarding the BHA's plan to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units.
In reply, Ms. Jones stated that she is not an attorney, that she does not know what the plan is for the EBCLC regarding the BHA's public housing renters, and that her supervisor (Sharon) will be out of town for at least 2 weeks.
As of the afternoon of March 29, 2010, according to BHA consultant OPC, the BHA has not yet received approval from HUD to sell it's public housing units, and that the BHA has not yet sent out an RFQ (request for qualifications) in an effort to see who is the best nonprofit developer that may be qualified or interested in buying Berkeley's occupied public housing units.
Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com