Sunday, January 28, 2007

Berkeley affordable housing crisis religious fervor

We the undersigned petition the City of Berkeley to replace all future HUD funding shortfalls out of the City's General Fund, as a means to properly maintain the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of the poor, elderly and disabled.

Berkeley Housing Authority. BERKELEY HOUSING AUTHORITY BY-LAWS Resolution No. 3. In effect: May 11, 1967. (Amended numerous times over the years. No mention when the authority was created or brief history of the agency.) City Of Berkeley Housing Authority

Save The Berkeley Housing Authority

To: Berkeley City Council

Petition To Save The Berkeley Housing Authority

We the undersigned believe that the City of Berkeley is on the front line of attacks by the Bush Administration's efforts to destroy the nation's housing assistance programs.

We therefore believe that progressives and humanitarians of the world need to draw the line in Berkeley, to stop these vicious attacks on these much needed housing assistance programs throughout the nation.

We the People believe that if the right-wing agenda of the Bush Administration is successful in destroying the Berkeley Housing Authority, other Housing Authority's across the nation may follow suit and allow themselves to be eliminated.

Therefore, We the People urge the City Council and Mayor to do everything that is possible to save the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of low-income people that may need housing assistance in the City of Berkeley.

We the undersigned petition the Berkeley City Council and Mayor to stop any and all attempts or efforts by the City Manager to negotiate with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to dismantle the Berkeley Housing Authority or to allow it to fall into receivorship.

We the undersigned petition Berkeley's City Councilmembers and Mayor to stop any or all efforts by the City Manager to consolidate the Berkeley Housing Authority with any other agency or entity which would result in the loss of local control by the City of Berkeley to administer it's own Section 8 housing programs or it's public housing programs.

We the undersigned petition the City of Berkeley to replace all future HUD funding shortfalls out of the City's General Fund, as a means to properly maintain the Berkeley Housing Authority for future generations of the poor, elderly and disabled.

We the undersigned pray that the City of Berkeley listens to the voice of the People from all walks of life and destinations, who for humanitarian reasons sign this petition as a means to save the Berkeley Housing Authority for the future generations of Berkeley's citizens.

Sincerely, The Undersigned (118)

Berkeley Housing Authority Crisis Deepens
Berkeley Housing Authority Forced To Cancel Meeting On January 30, As Affordable Housing Crisis Only Gets Worse!

by Lynda Carson ( tenantsrule [at] ) Thursday Jan 18th, 2007

Amid increased alarm over the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, the crisis at the Berkeley Housing Authority deepens with every passing moment.

On March 1, a reduction in federal housing voucher payments goes into effect in Berkeley which places 750 Section 8 families at risk of major rent increases, forced relocation, or the loss of their housing vouchers in a worst case scenario. "During last December, we had a meeting in San Francisco with local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) director Richard Rainey, in an effort to seek a waiver from the decrease in voucher payments scheduled to occur in March, and no one felt positive about the outcome of the meeting," said Ariana Cassanova, Assistant to Berkeley's Mayor.

HUD decided that the Fair Market Rents were too high in the Bay Area, and decreased the value of Section 8 vouchers as a result. Meanwhile Tri Commercial Real Estate Services out of Walnut Creek, reports that during 2005, rents in Alameda County rose by 0.6 percent, and according to the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County, rents jumped in Oakland by 8.5 percent during the same period.

In an effort to speak out against the life threatening cuts to their housing vouchers, Section 8 tenants had planned to go to the Jan. 30, Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) meeting, until they learned during mid January that the meeting had been canceled.

"We had been placed under great pressure by HUD to cancel the meeting, because we were not sure if it would be legal under current circumstances," said Cassanova. "We are going through a restructuring process and could'nt have a meeting on Jan. 30, because we were not sure if it would have been legal, and are waiting to hear back from HUD for assurances that our new model of governance structure for the BHA has been approved."

While in discussions with HUD during the past year, the need to restructure the governance of the agency became essential for it's future success, and on June 27, the BHA Board authorized Executive Officer, Phil Kamlarz, to negotiate with HUD on an alternative management structure. The governance models being considered for the BHA included other Public Housing Authorities, such as in Sacramento City, Reno, Oakland, Santa Barbara, Portland, San Francisco and Benicia.

As of September, 2006, the BHA was still currently designated as a "troubled" agency, and since then major efforts to improve the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) scores, failed to change that situation.

In a November notice "BHA Hap'nings", sent out to Berkeley's Section 8 tenants, it confirmed that the BHA still remained listed as a “troubled” housing agency by HUD, because it failed to acheive enough points in it's efforts to pass the latest SEMAP scoring process. The new model of governance restructuring taking place in the BHA, is a desperate attempt to satisfy HUD's demands, in an effort to keep the BHA under local control in Berkeley. HUD has threatened to remove the embattled agency from local control if it does not improve in it's day to day operations (SEMAP score), and being listed as a "troubled" agency for the 6th year in a row, only makes matters worse for public housing and Section 8 tenants in Berkeley.

Out of 1,750 families in Berkeley's Section 8 program, 750 families are now at risk of losing their housing when their housing vouchers will be decreased in value, as of March 1, 2007. These particular 750 families face a reduction in voucher payments the next time their Section 8 contract comes up for a renewal after March 1, because their landlords presently are demanding the maximum allowable limit in voucher payments allowed in Berkeley. As a result, when the vouchers become worth less in value during the next contract renewal, the families will have to make up the cost difference in rents, or relocate to cheaper housing, because the landlords are still demanding the same amount in monthly rent payments regardless of what the vouchers are worth.

Families in 3 bdrm units face a rent increase of $187 per month, $97 per month for those in 2 bdrm units, $45 per month in 1 bdrm units, and increases of $35 per month for those in studio apartments.

Berkeley Section 8 tenant Patrick Kehoe says, "I think it's a terrible idea to cut back on voucher payments to existing contracts. I am one of those 750 people facing cuts, and in addition to all the other Section 8 tenants facing cuts, it's the small landlords being hit the hardest because most large landlords refuse to participate in the Section 8 program. It's a tough situation all the way around. I don't know how myself or any other tenants can afford a rent increase at this time, when considering how little money we do have to survive on."

Since 2000, the Bush Regime cut back on HUD funding by 20 percent, and making matters worse during December 2006, HUD announced that Public Housing Authorities across the nation would only receive 76 percent of their needed operating budgets to run public housing programs for the poor, elderly and disabled.

As recent as January 10, in protest over the HUD budget cuts, over 90 Housing Authorities across the nation shut down their operations in what was called a "Day of Silence", to let different regions of the country know what it's like for a day, to be without an agency that assist's the poor in their housing needs.

A Jan. 9, press release from Oakland's Housing Authority states that, "Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) will receive $2.9 million less than it is entitled to and requires to cover basic operating costs for the city’s public housing program, which currently houses 2,717 of Oakland’s lowest-income families. It will be extremely difficult for OHA to fill the gap left by the 24 percent loss of federal funding. Services, particularly property improvements that would have been provided with full funding, will be seriously reduced. The Housing Authority’s ability to respond to community concerns about the quality of public housing properties will also be seriously affected by this ongoing disinvestment by the federal government."

As the affordable housing crisis continues to unfold in Berkeley and elsewhere, activists are urging Berkeley's Section 8 tenants to speak out against the budget cuts at the next BHA Meeting scheduled for 6pm, on February 27, at Berkeley's Old City Hall.


Help from Linda, a Sec 8 recipient in Berkeley

by Linda Smith Friday Jan 26th

Hello, my name is Linda Smith, and I'm a recipient of Sec 8 benefits in Berkeley. I do not wish to move from my nice, North Berkeley 1-bedroom apartment to, say, Oakland or further south. I am praying to God and the Angels of Housing and the Needy. Following is my prayer: I give thanks that all of us on Sec 8 in Berkeley, and all over the USA, are able to keep our housing, at an affordable rent level. God watches over all of us, and God will help us keep our rents affordable and our homes pleasant and comfortable places to live. I have also told Linda Carson that I am volunteering to build a website to help Save BHA and Sec 8. I am going to be in touch with her soon to help plan out and design that website on paper, first. I'm a webmistress in training. I am glad to help. Thank you God and the Guardian Angels of Housing and of People in Need! Amen.

Commentary: Saving the Berkeley Housing Authority
By Eleanor Walden (08-01-06)

Suzanne La Barre wrote an interesting report on the July 25 City Council meeting pertaining to the crisis of the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA). While the governing body of BHA (the nine City Council members and only two appointed members at large), assumes the posture that it just now recognizes that new governance is essential to the stability of the agency, the cry of "Shocked! Shocked!" sounds a bit hollow given the history. Let’s see if we can round up the usual suspects!

In the early 1980s, the governing body of BHA went from an independent board to the City Council. On the third Tuesday of the month they meet for about half an hour before the council meeting. Did it take 20 some-odd years for the members of the board to conclude that it "had too much on its plate ... to adequately oversee Housing Authority staff and operations"?

Then, since 2003, HUD designated BHA a "troubled" agency, for various administrative and managerial inadequacies, including a backlog of inspections and re-evaluations, and housing quality issues. In the past three years what part of "troubled" did they not understand? Is it that HUD funds BHA for $27.4 million a year and is now threatening to take its money elsewhere? Is it that the plight of poor people is generally underrated, especially when those doing the rating do not have to worry about having a roof over their head?

Last Tuesday, according to Daily Planet reporter Suzanne La Barre, more than three-dozen tenants "flooded" the City Council meeting. That public response to the housing crisis was stimulated by an ad hoc handful of people from the community who had the courage to make an appearance and get media attention. I submit that it also got the City Council’s attention.

Councilmember Spring submitted a two part motion: that the council adopt a resolution in favor of turning the authority over to another body, and secondly that an announcement be sent out to all Section 8 and Public Housing tenants from BHA inviting people to a public meeting for 2 p.m. Aug. 26 at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Ms. La Barre correctly reports that the council did not vote on the resolution because it was not on the agenda, but she did not cover the fact that they unanimously adopted the motion to send out notices and have a public meeting of tenants.

The aforementioned citizens who now call themselves the Committee to Save Berkeley Housing Authority, with Councilmember Spring, initiated that meeting. Committee members worked on the wording for the notice and began to secure speakers and arrange an agenda for the Aug. 26 meeting, the intended purpose of which is to activate Section 8 and public housing tenants to act in their own behalf by petitioning their Federal representatives and demanding that HUD protect affordable housing.

Housing Director Steve Barton seems to have a different viewpoint on the scope of this meeting. He sees the meeting as "informational," having the new BHA manager describe, "what is going on." Would it be too rude to ask how she or he will know "what's going on" being appointed only as of July 31, having the job for less than a month that has seen three new directors since the beginning of the year? Mr. Barton also proposes "the Section 8 tenants … can (be) invited to a meeting with the Section 8 Resident Advisory Board."

What Mr. Barton did not say is that the Section 8 Resident Advisory Board (RAB) does not exist in any sort of meaningful way; it does not have elected board members, and it lacks four out of the five board members needed to constitute an official body, and it has not officially met for two years. It is not the intention of the people who activated this grassroots campaign to turn the public meeting over to a non-existent, bureaucratic-front organization. We expect that when the dust settles the public meeting will take place in the manner and with the intention with which it was proposed and voted on by the City Council.

Eleanor Walden is a member of the Rent Stabilization Board.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone...I am John from Mexico..I have seen your forum...
Nice information provided here which is very useful to everyone....In an effort to speak out against the life threatening cuts to their housing vouchers, Section 8 tenants had planned to go to the Jan.....thanks for posting...Let me know more about this.....
Homes for sale and homes for rent in Albany, GA

10/13/2008 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everyone...I am John from Mexico..I have seen your forum...
Nice information provided here which is very useful to everyone....In an effort to speak out against the life threatening cuts to their housing vouchers, Section 8 tenants had planned to go to the Jan.....thanks for posting...Let me know more about this.....
Houses for sale in Berkeley, CA

10/13/2008 3:17 PM  

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