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Low-Income Housing List Opens for Week

By Judith Scherr
Friday September 21, 2007

The good news is that Berkeley will be housing three new low-income families in the three- and four-bedroom homes it owns. The bad news is that if you were on the waiting list, you have to start the application process from scratch. 

Eligible prospective tenants can pick up applications at the housing authority office, at 1901 Fairview St., or at other locations listed below. 

While applications are available today (Friday), they can be turned into the housing authority only next week, Sept. 24-28. 

Gracie Jones at the East Bay Community Law Center told the Daily Planet she will be assisting people in filling out their application. She underscored that when people get their applications, they should fill them out and turn them in immediately (starting Sept. 24).  

“The application process is only for one week,” she said. Jones said people should bring proof of income with them. 

One of the aspects of the application process that has frustrated some is that the 5,000-plus people whose names have sat for years on one or more of the three wait lists have to start at the beginning of the application process.  

“The lists are too old,” said BHA Executive Director Tia Ingram. 

The lists that were tossed out had been compiled variously by the BHA staff, Affordable Housing Associates, which had managed the properties until June, and by the Alameda County Housing Authority, which had managed the units at one time.  

It was impossible to reconcile the three lists, Ingram said, noting, for example, there were people whose names appeared on the lists with more than one address.  

Low-income housing advocate Lynda Carson told the Daily Planet on Tuesday that she thinks it’s a good thing that a number of non-profit organizations are involved in helping get the applications filled out properly. 

But it’s not fair for those on the wait list for years not to get prefmakes it seem like “the housing authority suddenly had no respect for those people,” Carson said. 

Moreover, she said, “Creating new lists is going to cost a fortune.” The housing authority is hiring data analysts to put together new lists. Each of the applicants’ data must be verified before they are placed into the lottery. “That will be 4,000 to 5,000 people easily,” Carson predicted.  

Ingram said she thinks fewer will apply. 

BHA Board Chair Carole Norris said working from the three outdated lists would have been time consuming. “The decision [to scrap the wait lists] was made because of costs—the list is so old,” she said. “People hadn’t been purged from the lists; a good number on the lists are not eligible. It would have been a lot of work with little benefit,” she said.  

The three available units, now being remodeled, are among 61 three- and four-bedroom homes owned by the city of Berkeley. BHA staff cautions that the waiting list for these homes is different from the Section 8 wait list, which is closed. The units rented under Section 8 belong to private landlords. 

The old Section 8 wait list was purged and reconstituted last year under the old housing authority, which sent out notices to prospective tenants asking them to update their information. The city has 1,800 Section 8 vouchers; the waiting list is closed to new applicants. 

People on the Section 8 waiting list who meet eligibility criteria may also apply for these units. 

BHA staff will review the applications to make sure people are eligible. Eligible persons will be placed in a lottery out of which 500 names will be selected randomly. They will constitute the new wait list.  

Three persons will be chosen at random from among the 500 to occupy the three available units.  

To be eligible for the units, one must have a family of three or more and be considered low income under HUD guidelines:  

• a family of three cannot earn more than $37,700 before taxes; 

• a family of four cannot earn more than $41,900 before taxes; 

• a family of five cannot earn more than $45,250 before taxes; 

• a family of six cannot earn more than $48,600 before taxes; 

• a family of seven cannot earn more than $51,950 before taxes; 

• a family of eight cannot earn more than $55,300 before taxes. 

Tenant rents are 30 percent of their incomes. 

In July, the city turned over the BHA to a new board of directors appointed by Mayor Tom Bates. Previously, the City Council had overseen the housing authority, which has been placed in “troubled” status by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The goal of the new board is to gain points from HUD to bring the agency out of troubled status, so that the agency won’t be put into receivership.  


BHA Meeting 

The new housing authority board met Monday, but as a member of the League of Women Voters observed, it was very difficult for people find out that the meeting was happening at all. 

That’s because the meeting was incorrectly noticed on the BHA website through Friday Sept. 14 for the Sept. 17 meeting. Agendas for the Monday meeting were posted at the BHA office Friday, minutes before the state-mandated deadline for announcing the Monday meeting.  

BHA staff explained that the delay was because a BHA staff person was away working with the Red Cross in the Ukraine. Notice will improve in the future, the staffer said. 


BHA staff 

At the Monday BHA meeting, which started 20 minutes late and was only partially amplified for the audience straining to hear the speakers, the authority approved a request for custodial work at the BHA offices. Companies that apply must pay workers a minimum of $11.39 per hour, in accordance with the city’s “living wage” ordinance. That’s about $1,800 per month for custodians with full-time work. 

The BHA request indicates no particular attempt to find janitorial companies whose workers are unionized.  

At the same meeting, BHA authorized several positions: an office manager who will be paid $3,901-$4,256 per month plus benefits, a housing specialist and housing inspector, each earning $4,113-$5,000 per month plus benefits and a management analyst who will earn $5,912-$7,021 per month plus benefits. 



Norris told the Daily Planet on Thursday that BHA is planning a meeting next Wednesday specifically to address the tenants and help reorganize a tenants’ organization. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. 


Where low-income housing  

Applications Can Be Picked Up 


BHA office, 1901 Fairview St. 

Berkeley Housing Department, 2180 Milvia St., 2nd Floor 

Berkeley Public Library, main branch, 2090 Kittredge St. 

Center for Independent Living, 2539 Telegraph Ave. 

East Bay Community Law Center, 2921 Adeline St. 

Centro Legal de la Raza, 2501 International Blvd. 

Asian Resouce Center, 310 Eighth St.