Independent Body to Govern Housing Authority

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 02, 2007

City councilmembers voted themselves out of the job of running the Berkeley Housing Authority on Tuesday when they approved a new governance structure expected to be in place by July. 

The Housing Authority board is currently constituted of the City Council members plus two BHA renters, but the agency has been in “troubled” status since the fall of October 2005. A new, independent body would have more time to direct the agency that oversees Berkeley’s low-income housing, councilmembers said. 

The new board of seven members, to include two tenants, will all be appointed by the mayor with council approval and will function independently of the council. (While commissions are generally appointed in equal numbers by the mayor and councilmembers, state law says the mayor will appoint the new entity, said Housing Director Steve Barton.) 

Councilmember Dona Spring had hoped for some continued oversight by the council and asked for regular reports on housing inspections and recertification of housing voucher holders. “The buck stops with us,” she said. 

But it doesn’t, said City Manager Phil Kamlarz, explaining that the body will have ultimate decision-making powers. Reports, however, will be public and available to the council, he said. 

“The buck doesn’t stop here, but it comes from here,” quipped Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, referring to a statement by the city manager’s in which he said that the city will need to kick in $600,000 to $1 million to keep the BHA afloat. 

Bates said he will appoint Councilmember Darryl Moore as liaison with the council. Those interested in serving on the authority can contact the mayor at 981-7100.