The Daily Californian Online

Forum Discusses Affordable Housing Issues

By Zach E.J. Williams
Contributing Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Category: News > Housing

Increased cooperation among local organizations may lead to new strategies in tackling lingering problems in the East Bay housing market, according to experts who spoke during a Wednesday forum in Berkeley.

The town hall discussion, sponsored in part by the UC Berkeley Center for Community Innovation, brought leaders in housing from across non-profit, public and private sectors as part of East Bay Affordable Housing Week.

The speakers said solutions for housing problems could be found by also addressing overlapping issues such as transportation, poverty, public health and green issues.

With local governments in the East Bay facing additional funding cuts from the state, panelists said a unified strategy is needed because there is no simple solution to housing problems.

"It's not enough for individual cities to plan on their own (and) it isn't feasible to mandate that housing be affordable," said Linda Wheaton, a panelist and assistant deputy director for California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Some pointed to federal stimulus funding as a first step in reversing what they called lingering problems.

About 30,000 fewer affordable housing units are built every year than are needed, said Matt Schwartz, president and CEO for the California Housing Partnership Corporation President.

"(Stimulus funding) did restore the funding sources we rely on (but) we are about 800,000 affordable homes in the hole," he said.

In order to stimulate the local

economy, Schwartz said cooperation would also help solve other local issues.

"Affordable housing helps communities go green," he said.

Lynette Lee, executive director of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, said increased public housing programs are also sustainable in another way.

"They create a need for people to manage and maintain the property, increasing local job prospects," she said. "That's where we are able to hire our tenants."

Yet, panelists stressed that solutions would require a variety of perspectives.

"Every organization here is a piece of the puzzle," said Eliza Schissel, resource development manager for Habitat for Humanity East Bay.

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