AHA Now to Offer Tenants Full Relocation Options

By Rio Bauce
Friday August 03, 2007

Affordable Housing Associates (AHA) announced this week that they would give tenants at Allston House on 2121 7th St. the option to be temporarily relocated during the renovation of their toilets beginning Aug. 20. 

In recent months, there has been controversy over whether AHA has followed their renovation and relocation plans correctly during recent renovations.  

The Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) gave AHA $1.2 million from the Berkeley Housing Trust Fund, housing money that is supplied by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for the renovation of the affordable units in West Berkeley. 

In initial plans, AHA planned to use an additional $150,000 for the relocation of tenants during construction from various grants. But some residents said they were never offered the option of moving while their apartments were being renovated. 

According to AHA’s Temporary Relocation Plan, tenants must be presented with three options during renovations: To be relocated to another apartment in the complex, to be relocated to another apartment off-site, or to live with family or friends and receive a housing allowance. 

AHA Executive Director Susan Friedland said that no one was offered a relocation option because she said tenants had requested that they would rather stay in their homes during renovation work. “We modified our plans for relocation, because people at the building told us, ‘We’d really like to stay in our homes during the renovation.’ So we tried to accommodate that,” she said. 

April Green, working on behalf of some residents, disagreed and accused AHA of violating procedure to the detriment of residents. “They violated the contract,” Green said. “Susan Friedland didn’t offer anybody to live in another unit. The money for doing that is there. It was very clear and accounted for.” 

A few tenants who agreed to speak with the Planet said that they did not want to live at the property during construction. 

“They didn’t do it like they said they would,” said one resident who didn’t want to be identified. “I would have rather moved into a hotel or another apartment like they told us. Most people wanted to move out.” 

“Money was supposed to go towards relocating families,” said Green. “Instead, we are living in our apartments while renovation is taking place. They are not using the relocation money the way they need to be. I think that they are pocketing the money.” 

However, Friedland said that all AHA funds and expenses are reviewed by the government. “At the end of the project, the IRS audits us,” she said. “We did not pocket any money.” 

Many tenants also said they have been frustrated with AHA because they haven’t been given adequate notice of when construction would be taking place in their units.  

“Yesterday, people came by to change the windows without any notice at all,” said another source who did not want to be identified. “For the first job they did in my home, they gave us 10 days notice. When they changed the bathrooms, they gave us three days of notice. It’s annoying. I wish that they would tell us what’s going on.” 

Green said the important thing is the people are now being offered a chance to move into hotels. 

“After the recent news, people are celebrating,” said Green. “We just wanted people to get into hotels.”