Local Cities May Buy Foreclosed Property

Berkeley Will Consider Joint Application With Cities for Funds to Buy, Rehabilitate Properties

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Berkeley and five other cities in Alameda County are poised to submit a joint application for federal funds to buy foreclosed property and rehabilitate the buildings if necessary.

The Berkeley City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday about a proposal to give the city manager authority to enter a joint application with the other cities, said Berkeley's Acting Housing Director Jane Micallef.

The requested $2.34 million in funding would allow the cities-which include Berkeley, Alameda, Fremont, Livermore, San Leandro and Union City-to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed property.

The buildings can then be sold or rented out to low- and moderate-income individuals, Micallef said.

Funding for the projects would come from the $145 million that California has already received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, according to Micallef.

Berkeley, which is eligible for up to $177,335 of the stimulus funds, needs to apply for the money with the other cities to meet the $1 million application requirement, she said.

The combined money would be enough to purchase property in one or more of the six cities in the county and would have a regional benefit, Micallef said.

"What we're hoping to be able to do is pool resources with other cities," she said."

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said Berkeley does not have a significant foreclosure problem.

"We're fortunate we haven't had the kind of problem other cities have had," Bates said.

According to David Stark, public affairs director for the Bay East Association of REALTORS, Berkeley had 12 foreclosed properties up for sale as of Tuesday, compared to 288 in Oakland.

Mayor Tony Santos of San Leandro, which has already authorized its city manager to enter the joint application, said funding from the program would not be enough to address San Leandro's 694 foreclosures.

Santos said he hopes funds will be available soon, as cities in the county are facing a difficult financial situation.

"We're looking forward to receiving some of the stimulus money, but in my opinion, it's not moving quick enough," he said.

Bates said he is confident the City Council will pass the proposal following the public hearing, because funding from the program cannot be accessed otherwise.

"We're happy to have money come to the city and share in this pool with joining cities," he said. "I'd be shocked if we didn't pass it."


Carol Yur covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]

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