Recently released documents (dated March 8) reveal that in total violation of Berkeley's just cause eviction protections, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) has agreed to force Berkeley's low-income public housing families out of their long-time public housing units, prior to the transfer of Berkeley's public housing properties to billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross, of The Related Companies of California, LLC, (a.k.a. Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.).
Terry Pete is a long-time public housing tenant in Berkeley since 1988, and said, "It is not fair that they are selling Berkeley's public housing, and I am very concerned about what is going on. I have lived in Berkeley all of my life, and I do not fully understand what is happening to my housing at this time."
Public housing tenant Rhonda Rodgers said, "We have received notices lately stating that the BHA wants us to move. There were 2 meetings last week to tell us about the plan to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units and how they want us to move, but hardly anyone showed up at the meetings. It's really crazy what they are trying to do to us, and we can not believe what they are telling us anymore. They want us to move out of our homes by next August. I have been a resident here for 13 years, and I do not want to move. I am a fighter and want to stay where I am at."
Hidden and shrouded in the fog of what are called closed sessions or special meetings, delayed minutes of meetings by months at a time, on-line oral reports that never reveal what was said at the meetings, and on-line PDF documents that intentionally lack the minutes of the meetings and the attachments needed to read the full details of the meetings and the negotiations taking place in the proposed sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units, are common practice by the corrupt activities of a housing agency that may be once again on the verge of being listed as a "troubled agency," because it has been sitting on too many Section 8 vouchers during the past year that should have been distributed to the low-income families of Berkeley, to assist them in their housing needs.
As it is, in a BHA memo dated March 8, it was announced that the BHA has received official notice that its public housing program is designated as "troubled" for FY 2012, and that it has 30 days to appeal the troubled status.
The up till now, secret deals and negotiations to privatize and sell Berkeley's 75 public housing town-homes that are taking place between the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) and The Related Companies of California, LLC, and its billionaire owners have remained secret, but are currently revealed in documents from the BHA, dated March 8, 2012. Documents that apparently have not been released or made available to the public, on the BHA's website.
On March 8, 2012, there were two BHA meetings including a special meeting, and a closed meeting of the BHA board of directors. During one of those meetings, the board members of the BHA voted to authorize the executive director, Tia Ingram, to execute the Disposition Development and Loan Agreement (DDLA), as part of the on-going process to sell Berkeley's 75 occupied public housing units to billionaire's Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross, of The Related Companies of California, LLC, (a.k.a. Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.).
According to the DDLA, the BHA has agreed to pay for the permanent relocation of Berkeley's public housing families (28 families or more) prior to the transfer of the public housing units to Related (billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross), and that Related will not submit funding applications for the project until all residents have executed relocation agreements, and 75% of the residents who will permanently relocate have done so. As of February 1, 2012, the BHA had 63 occupied public housing units, out of 75 units.
It should be noted that under Berkeley's just cause eviction protections that landlords are not allowed to evict or displace tenants in residential buildings just because a residential building is being sold, and that this corrupt BHA deal with Related that is forcing the low-income renters to relocate from their long-time public housing prior to transfer of the property, is against the law and the spirit of the just cause eviction protections in Berkeley.
This deal is totally dependent on the ability of the BHA and its relocation agent Overland, Pacific and Cutler, to frighten and terrorize the long-time public housing residents into giving up their rights as public housing tenants, and to force them into signing documents giving up their existing housing.
During July of 2009, against the best interest's of Berkeley's existing long-time public housing families, the BHA adopted the recommendation of its consultant, EJP Consultant Group, to embark on a project to privatize and sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units.
In September, 2011, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) announced that it was planning to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units to The Related Companies of California, LLC (Owned by billionaires, Stephen M. Ross and Jorge M. Perez), and announced that the BHA has entered into an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with The Related Companies of California, LLC, that will last 90 days, with a possible 30 day extension to negotiate the full terms of the deal.
On March 8, 2012, the board members of the BHA voted to authorize the executive director, Tia Ingram, to execute the Disposition Development and Loan Agreement, as part of the on-going process to sell the BHA's 75 public housing units to billionaire's Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross, of The Related Companies (a.k.a. Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.).
James E. Vann who was the architect for Berkeley's public housing units back in the early to mid 80s is shocked by the plan to sell its valuable public housing and said, "The city and BHA promised to keep its public housing permanent (in perpetuity) to receive a special "Title 1 Grant" of funding from HUD to build that housing for the poor, and now they are breaking their promise to current and future generations of the poor, who desperately need low-income housing to remain in their communities."
The DDLA provides that the developer (Related) will acquire a leasehold interest in the land that Berkeley's 75 public housing units are located on, to rehabilitate the 75 housing units and to own the building improvements, while preserving the units as affordable housing to households earning 50% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI), for a period of 99 years. Current City and BUSD ground leases are to be amended and assigned directly to the Related ownership entity (Berkeley 75 Housing Partners, L.P.).
Among the details of the agreement, the BHA is to provide 75 project-based vouchers (one for each housing unit) with a 15 year HAP contract with an option to renew for another 15 years. However, currently the Obama Administration is seeking major funding cuts to the project-based voucher program which may negatively affect the deal and screw up the plans of the BHA to provide project-based vouchers to the project.
Once the deal takes place and Related is renting out the privatized former public housing units, the BHA will receive 60% of residual cash flow (kick backs) coming into the project after a number of fee payments, and a residual cash flow after 4 years to the BHA is estimated at $171,915.
The cost of rehabilitating the 75 units according to the DDLA is $8,310,774, or $110,810 per unit. The appraised value of the improvements to the units is $15,546,000, and Related will make an acquisition payment for the building improvements of $4,100,000 or $5,543,000.
As a result of the DDLA that was voted on March 8, Related has also agreed to make an initial payment to the BHA of $100,000, and as negotiated, the funds will be held in escrow until the initial relocation interviews to relocate Berkeley's low-income public housing families from their long-time homes are completed. The BHA also continues to pressure the City of Berkeley to release $400,000 in housing trust funds to The Related Companies of California, LLC, for predevelopment costs of the project.
In addition, the BHA has authorized Overland, Pacific and Cutler, to begin engaging families that are to be displaced from their public housing, and as a further means of intimidation, the BHA plans to embark on recertifying all current households in Berkeley's public housing to verify their income and assets, and to verify which families are eligible for continued rental assistance and Section 8 vouchers, that could be used to force the families from their public housing units, before their homes are sold to the out of state billionaires of Related.
Additionally, as of March 8, the BHA will immediately suspend processing all applications for low-income tenants in the Section 8 wait lists that have applied for Section 8 housing vouchers, until September of 2012, to avoid increasing competition for Section 8 vouchers that are needed by the many families that are being displaced from their public housing units, prior to the public housing units being sold to billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross.
Berkeley's poor and low-income families needing assistance through the Section 8 housing program have unfairly become hostage in the scheme to privatize and sell Berkeley's public housing units, and are being unfairly bumped out line for Section 8 housing vouchers, as part of the corrupt deal to sell Berkeley's public housing units to billionaires Jorge M. Perez and Stephen M. Ross.
Overall, these unscrupulous, corrupt and incompetent activities by the BHA and its executive director, Tia Ingram, are in plain sight in documents dated March 8, that were not made available on-line to the public. Some of these activities have been part of an on-going effort to keep the public ignorant and in the dark about the housing authorities activities, and the details of the proposed sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units to The Related Companies of California, LLC, and its billionaire owners.
Documents and information that should be readily available to the public at large and easy to find on-line, are no longer available because the BHA has lost sight of its mission. It has become a corrupt and inept agency through the years while listed as a troubled agency over and over again under its executive director, Tia Ingram, and has become an agency that has lost its respect for the public at large needing housing assistance in the Section 8 program, including the low-income tenants and families that are being forced out of their long-time public housing.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com