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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Health, Housing & Public Services
Berkeley Housing Authority faces termination if a merger occurs
It's probable that the BHA may be gobbled up and merged with the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). The OHA is an experimental MTW housing authority, which means that Berkeley's section 8 tenants (Housing Choice Voucher Program tenants) would lose many of their existing rights as section 8 tenants if the merger takes place, or if Berkeley's section 8 tenants do not rise up in anger to block the merger from happening!
Berkeley Housing Authority faces termination if a merger occurs
By Lynda Carson - August 29, 2014
Berkeley - Poor people in Berkeley are shocked to hear that the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) may be terminated, and merged with a larger housing authority in the near future.
It's probable that the BHA may be gobbled up and merged with the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). The OHA is an experimental MTW housing authority, which means that Berkeley's section 8 tenants (Housing Choice Voucher Program tenants) would lose many of their existing rights as section 8 tenants if the merger takes place, or if Berkeley's section 8 tenants do not rise up in anger to block the merger from happening.
As recent as Tuesday August 26, the Daily Californian reported that the BHA's chair person Carol Norris spoke of the possible merger, and Carol Norris said: "If unable to remain viable on it's own, the housing authority may consider merging with a larger housing entity." In the same Daily Californian article Norris is quoted as saying that the BHA is small and does not want to expand into the territory occupied by good housing developers that already exist, when offering a reason why the BHA may be merged with a larger housing authority.
If the merger happens, no longer will the poor people of Berkeley have a local housing authority in town to ask for assistance to meet their housing needs. Berkeley is a city that has repeatedly tried to criminalize it's homeless population in recent years, has skyrocketing rents, very little low-income housing that poor people can afford to reside in, and has greedy nonprofit housing developers operating in town that have minimum income requirements, that discriminate against the poor.
According to the public records of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), California currently has 233,594 tenant based vouchers to assist the poor with their housing needs, and the BHA has 1,935 units in it's section 8 inventory.
Out of the 1,935 section 8 units in it's inventory, there are 1,522 section 8 voucher holders in Berkeley, and 82% of the voucher holders have extremely low-income households, with an income that is below 30% of the area median income (AMI). Additionally, 68% of the voucher holders are African American, and in total there are 2,726 household members in Berkeley's section 8 voucher program (a.k.a. Housing Choice Voucher Program). The average section 8 tenant payment per month to a section 8 landlord in Berkeley is $358.00 per month, and the BHA pays the rest of the monthly rent payment to the landlord on behalf of the household receiving federal rental assistance from HUD.
The Loss Of Berkeley's Public Housing To Some Out-Of-State Billionaires
A March 13, 2014, memorandum from the BHA announced that the disposition project to privatize and dispose of Berkeley's 75 public housing town homes closed as recent as Friday, February 14, 2014. According to the BHA, a February 11, 2014, notice was sent out to all current public housing residents advising them of the transfer of ownership of their public housing housing units to a private entity.
The February 11, 2014, notice to some of Berkeley's public housing tenants from the BHA tells them that their 75 public housing units have been sold to the new ownership entity, Berkeley 75, LP, effective February 14, 2014. Additionally, the notice tells the tenants that Berkeley 75, LP, will be their new landlord, and that the BHA will no longer have any involvement in their tenancy. The controlling entity of Berkeley 75, LP, is a company called Related California, which is owned by billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross of The Related Companies.
The tenants were advised that beginning February 14th and continuing through the end of the rehabilitation of their housing units that they can use Section 8 vouchers to move if they decide to do so. A phone number or address was not listed on the notice to the tenants in regards to how they can contact the new owners of their 75 privatized housing units.
In Brief: Out-of-state billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross of The Related Companies took control of Berkeley's 75 public housing units on February 14, in a complicated deal that edged out local nonprofit housing developers. Many of Berkeley's low-income families have become displaced as a direct result of the sell out of Berkeley's 75 public housing units that originally were supposed to remain as public housing units in perpetuity, when they were originally built with taxpayer funding.
For background of the new owners of Berkeley's privatized public housing units, in 2010 it was reported that Jorge M. 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 multi-billion dollar development company.
After Berkeley's 75 public housing units were privatized and taken over on February 14, 2014 by Related, a month later on March 17, 2014, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that the United States filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court alleging that RELATED COMPANIES, INC. (“RELATED”), a major real estate developer based in New York City, has engaged in a pattern and practice of developing rental apartment buildings that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities locally, and across the nation.
Poor People Under Attack In Berkeley
To all the poor souls and the dispossessed homeless population that is already roaming the streets of Berkeley at night seeking shelter, a safe place to sleep under some bushes, or a spot up in the hills above the city on University property to camp out at, it may not matter to them what happens to Berkeley's section 8 tenants.
For various reasons, much of the dispossessed and homeless in Berkeley are not able to jump through all the hoops of the local bureaucracy to obtain section 8 vouchers for their housing needs but, are still lucky enough to get a free meal five days a week at Peoples Park from Food Not Bombs. Mayor Tom Bates and his cronies from the Chamber of Commerce and the Telegraph Avenue Merchants Association, have not yet been able to stop Food Not Bombs from operating in town at Peoples Park.
Now that the word is out that Carol Norris and Tia Ingram of the BHA are already scheming to dump the poor from Berkeley's section 8 voucher program onto the lap of an agency that is a bit more competent and more responsible than the agency they have ran into the ground during recent years, section 8 tenants are definitely at risk of being displaced from their housing in Berkeley if the merger takes place. If the merger takes place many section 8 tenants may be pressured to find cheaper housing, or to move into smaller housing units, may have to pay higher rents, or they may have their vouchers taken away from them in worst case scenarios.
Mayor Tom Bates knew exactly what he was doing when he brought in Carol Norris of ICF International to be the chair person of the BHA, in the effort to displace Berkeley's poor from their long-time public housing units. When he needed someone to take the reigns of the BHA and privatize Berkeley's 75 public housing town-homes, and sell them off to some out-of-state billionaires that own the Related Companies and their affiliates, Carol Norris knew precisely how to get the job done.
Now it appears that their next move is to terminate the BHA, and allow it to be gobbled up in a merger with a larger housing authority. Around 2,700 very low-income section 8 tenants may be placed at risk of losing their housing in Berkeley if a merger occurs.
Though it was established on December 20, 1966 as a housing authority, the BHA has seen better days. As an example of the incompetence of this agency that is under the management Tia Ingram, executive director of the BHA, and Carol Norris, chair person of the BHA, the BHA's website still claims that the BHA owns and operates 75 units of public housing, despite the fact that it's 75 public housing units were privatized and sold off to out-of-state billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen Ross of Related, over 6 months ago.
Related has begun the rehabilitation of the 75 public housing units they managed to get their hands on, which resulted in the displacement of Berkeley's poor from their long-time homes, and the rehab project is expected to be finished sometime in October 2014.
Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com