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Berkeley Seeks Buyers for Occupied Public Housing Units (Partisan Position)

By Lynda Carson
Tuesday May 10, 2011 - 08:23:00 AM

A plan opposed by low-income public housing residents of Berkeley to privatize and sell their longtime public housing units, has moved forward with the latest effort to find a buyer for Berkeley's 75 public housing units. 

On May 2, 2011, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) released a Request For Proposals (RFP), in an effort to find one or more so-called non profit housing developers, or for profit developers willing to buy Berkeley's mostly occupied 75 - three and four bedroom townhouse units, located throughout the City of Berkeley, on 15 parcels. Developers can obtain the RFP at the BHA's Administrative Office, or through Tia Ingram, BHA's Executive Director. 

In an effort to privatize and sell its public housing units, the BHA is seeking statements of qualification and fee proposals from developers for the acquisition, rehabilitation and operation of its 75 public housing units. The effort will displace Berkeley's poor public housing residents from their housing. 

Tenant protections exist, and Berkeley's Just Cause rent laws prohibit landlords from evicting renters from their housing when a property is being sold. But in defiance of Berkeley's Just Cause rental protections the BHA is moving forward to pressure and displace Berkeley's poor low-income mostly African-American public housing residents from their longtime public housing, in the effort to privatize and sell the 75 public housing units to one or more non profit housing developers. 

Documents reveal that the BHA have already been involved in discussions with local non profit developers including Ryan Chao, Executive Director of Satellite Housing, Dan Sawislak, Executive Director of Resources for Community Development, Susan Friedland, Executive Director of Affordable Housing Associates, and Jack Gardner, President and CEO, of the John Stewart Company. 

Submissions to the RFP are due no later than 3:00 PM July 11, 2011, and the selection of the highest ranked respondent is scheduled to occur on Aug. 1, 2011. 

Though established during 1966, in recent years the BHA has spent numerous years listed as a Troubled agency, owns and manages 75 public housing units, administers around 1,939 subsidized housing Section 8 voucher contracts, and filed papers with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Dec. 29, 2009, to dispose of its public housing units. The approval by HUD to dispose of and sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units occurred on Dec. 22, 2010. 

Public housing provides housing for those with a low income or no income at all, and provides housing for families, the working poor, the elderly and disabled. 

In comparison, non profit housing developers require minimum incomes for people to reside in their so-called affordable housing properties, and generally discriminate against poor people that have no income at all. 

Based upon information provided by the BHA around 2009, nearly 72.9% of its public housing tenants earn less than $30,000 annually. Additionally, 86.5% of the residents in the BHA's public housing program identify themselves as Black / African-American, 11.2 % as white, and 2.2% as Asian, and that the BHA only makes around $607 per month from federal subsidies, including rent collected from the tenants for a three to four bedroom public housing unit. 

The BHA wants to privatize and sell its 75 public housing units to one or more non profit housing developers that are willing to kick-back money to the BHA and the City of Berkeley, in a longtime partnership, in the effort to turn Berkeley's public housing units into a money making venture. 

Berkeley's poor face displacement from their longtime public housing units due to the various schemes the BHA is willing to entertain, including proposals from developers/owners that propose some form of resale, redevelopment or reuse of the individual properties, currently being occupied by Berkeley's poor public housing residents. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at