To the Editor:
Ms. Rhiannon’s Sept. 4 letter “How to give a housing subsidy” responding to my previous letter on Berkeley affordable housing public policy contained several points that I would like to address.
Ms. Rhiannon claims that “two nonprofit housing corporations... [are] self-monitoring and self-inspecting, and they receive the lion’s share of city housing funds.” These assertions are inaccurate. Based on funding allocations released from the city of Berkeley’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF) – a pool of federal, state and local revenues used to fund city-supported affordable housing developments, rehabilitation’s or acquisitions – at least a half dozen East Bay-based nonprofit housing development organizations have received HTF loans over the last decade.
Over the last ten years, HTF funds have been widely distributed amongst these half dozen developers after undergoing a careful, democratic selection process. Each year, nonprofit developers submit affordable housing proposals before the city’s housing department and the Housing Advisory Commission, a nine-member board appointed by the City Council. The commission votes to allocate HTF funds based on each proposal’s merits, the developer’s experience/track record, and the critical housing needs each proposal addresses. All HTF-funded developments are subsequently monitored closely by the city and by state and federal monitoring agencies if their dollars are used. Also, all HTF-funded housing developments are subject to city housing ordinances, including city monitoring and inspection agencies. Additionally, there is no connection between HTF-funded developments and Berkeley’s separate Redevelopment Agency or the city’s federally-sponsored Housing Authority.
Finally, Ms. Rhiannon claims that the Federal “Section 8” affordable housing program “limits tenant’s freedom to contact [Berkeley’s] codes and inspections or other agencies regarding repairs since tenants who complain risk homelessness.” This assertion is incorrect. Any tenant in Berkeley, including private, nonprofit or federally-subsidized units, can contact the city’s codes and inspections unit, regardless of their unit’s status. It is also a very serious violation of local, state and federal laws/ordinances to threaten a tenant with eviction if a tenant requests repairs for his or her unit.
Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission