Members of the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) today (Thursday) will look at efforts to rehabilitate the low-income housing building located just across the street from People’s Park.
Affordable Housing Associates (AHA) owns the 18-unit building at 2500 Hillegass Ave., where two tenants have complained that their apartment was left without heating for more than two years.
A recent visit to the building by a reporter also found evidence of mold growing beneath the first floor and turned up complaints that gravel poured into hallways from the ceiling during rainstorms.
AHA has owned the building since May 2001, according to a report prepared for Thursday’s meeting by city Community Development Project Coordinator Lourdes Chang.
The city spurred the acquisition, Chang reports, because the units “were at risk of converting to market rate.”
The building provides a dozen units for tenants in the federally established very- low- and low-income categories, with the remainder reserved for those in the moderate category.
Federal policy defines very low income as a household earning less than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), with low income pegged at 50 to 80 percent of AMI and moderate income set at between 80 and 115 percent of AMI. The income figures are calculated for each Statistical Area, a population cluster defined by the Census Bureau.
Two long-time tenants, Grace Christie and Jill Hutchby, told HAC members they had been without heat for three years, despite repeated complaints to AHA.
The problem turned out to be a switch inside the thermostat which had not been turned on. “They told us we couldn’t open the thermostat,” Hutchby said.
“They sent their people here twice, and Pacific Gas and Electric came out twice, but it was only the last time they found the thermostat switch had been set at ‘off’,” she said.
“We’d been sleeping in sleeping bags” because of the cold, Christie said.
Christie said she was also concerned about the building’s security because the doors to balconies don’t have locks.
In her report, Chang said AHA will be seeking money for the city’s Housing Trust Fund to conduct more extensive renovations at the Hillegass building.
“To leverage city funds, AHA will apply for low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bond financing and other available housing funds,” she reported, with a goal of $400,000 to $800,000. AHA has already spent $300,000 on maintenance, upgrades and repairs.
Because of tax credit rules, funding from that program won’t be available until late next year or early 2010.
Proposed work includes an upgraded electrical system with solar panels to power the building’s common areas, renovations to the garage area, including additional laundry space, fire escape repairs, repair or replacement of fire escapes, new cabinetry and hardware where needed in kitchens and bathrooms, installation of electric baseboard heaters in all units, new tile for all apartments and any needed upgrades for disabled access.
Thursday night’s meeting will also include possible action on a recommendation to the City Council seeking the transfer of $1 million in general fund revenues to the Housing Trust Fund, and discussions of city density bonus and condominium conversion ordinance proposals.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. at Ashby Avenue.