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Housing Authority ‘at the crossroads’

By John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Monday October 01, 2001

Housing officials presented a plan Tuesday to restructure the troubled Berkeley Housing Authority, which they say is on the verge of collapse because of years of “ineffective and inefficient” organization. 

The BHA, which provides rental assistance to low-income tenants, has been plagued by budget shortfalls averaging $250,000 a year due to under-use of Section 8 housing vouchers. Furthermore, officials estimate the 75 units of city-managed public housing will need a federal loan of $1.5 million to rehabilitate and repair code violations in the next year, according to a Sept. 25 Housing Department report. 

Both landlords and tenants have complained that the agency is slow in responding to problems. Landlords have been especially upset with the agency’s slowness in processing HUD-approved rent increases. Dissatisfaction with the BHA administration, a lucrative rental market and less stringent state rent control laws have caused some landlords to withdraw their rental units from the program. Doing so makes the under-used voucher problem more difficult to solve. 

Urgency has been added to the situation by the Office of Housing and Urban Development, which has given the BHA until April to add 300 Section 8 leases to its rental assistance program. If BHA does not meet that deadline, officials said it will face severe budget cuts that could result in the closing down of the agency. 

In an attempt to turn the agency around, Housing Department Director Stephen Barton and Acting BHA Manager Rick Mattessich proposed a reorganization plan to the BHA Board