The State of the Berkeley Housing Authority

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 08, 2007

Today, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) is a division of the housing department that oversees federally-funded low-income housing. A board currently consisting of the mayor and City Council and two tenants oversees the authority. 

BHA is administered by a manager—Tia Ingram has been manager for nine months—who is supervised by the housing department director. The city manager serves as BHA’s executive director. 

The housing department director supervises the BHA, has oversight over other affordable housing projects, supervises grants awarded to community agencies and oversees the city’s energy/sustainable development division. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designated BHA as a “troubled” institution in 2002. Unable to improve enough to wrest itself from that designation, which could ultimately lead to assigning the housing authority oversight to an outside agency, the city manager, with council consent, decided to restructure BHA to create an independent agency. The transition will be effective July 1. A new board of seven Berkeley residents has been named by the mayor.  

Accused by the city attorney of incompetence and malfeasance, the entire BHA staff will be laid off at the end of the month, something the workers’ and their union are opposing. They will be offered jobs in vacant positions throughout city government. They will go through an evaluation process at that time and can re-apply for their old jobs. 

The workers who have done their jobs well “shouldn’t be punished,” Kamlarz told the Planet. “That’s not our intent.” 

Meanwhile, various investigations are taking place in the housing authority: the city attorney is working with city manager staff on one investigation; an outside attorney will be doing an investigation; the BHA director is working on an internal investigation; HUD investigators will be in the city next week to do their own investigation.  

In two weeks or so Councilmember Wozniak will ask the City Council to put together an outside committee to look into how the city got into the problem it finds itself in. Wozniak wants the mayor to choose the committee; a counter-proposal by Councilmember Kriss Worthington would have the council appoint the committee. The proposal was to be on Tuesday’s City Council agenda, but Kamlarz asked Wozniak to wait and work with him to refine it. 

The BHA next meets on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.