Plan to sell public housing units may require residents to relocate

Berkeley Housing Authority Draft Relocation Plan »

Read the Berkeley Housing Authority's Draft Relocation Plan revised April 4

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Under the Berkeley Housing Authority's plan to sell its 75 public housing units - which will require about $4.5 million in renovations - 24 to 33 households could be permanently relocated when the rent for their updated units returns to market value.

The authority's April 4 Draft Relocation Plan, prepared by the Oakland office of Overland, Pacific & Cutler, Inc., outlines the estimated renovation and relocation costs, the process of repositioning residents and the resulting effects of selling the units to a private developer. The units have maintained lower than market-level rent under the authority, which is funded by federal, state and city governments.

Since the transference would remove the units from the authority's ownership, some public housing residents would instead rely on the provisions of Section 8 - a system that provides elderly, disabled and low-income citizens with subsidies that can be applied toward pre-approved Section 8 housing or private housing that complies with Section 8 standards. However, 24 to 30 households may not be able to return to their units because their subsidies provided under Section 8 guidelines will not cover enough of the rent.

Kathleen Sims, project manager for the relocation plan, said the projected rents for the renovated units are too high for families that are "over-housed," meaning their units have a higher bedroom to occupant ratio than Section 8 assistance will cover based on their family size. Sims attributed this phenomenon to families whose children have moved out and to the fact that the authority's units - all of which are either three- or four-bedroom residences - were built to accommodate large low-income families.

In December 2009, the authority submitted an Inventory Removal Application after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development directed the authority to make structural improvements to its 61 federally-funded units. The department approved the application about a year later, authorizing the authority - which does not have sufficient funding to make the required renovations - to move forward with its plan to sell the units.

"I can totally understand why somebody doesn't want to move from their home," said Berkeley Rent Stabilization Program Deputy Director Stephen Barton, who worked for the city's housing department when it included the authority. "At the same time, if there's just two people living in a four-bedroom townhouse, that means there's a large family in this area ... who desperately need the assistance of that housing."

The relocation plan also estimates that three households are "over-income" and do not qualify for Section 8 support because they earn more than 80 percent of the median income for the area when adjusted for the size of the household. Families could also be excluded from their old units because of the HUD requirement that assisted households not spend more than 40 percent of their monthly income on rent.

Public housing resident Gregory Green said he was concerned that if he is required to move out during renovations the authority will not provide his family with enough money to relocate.

According to the drafted plan, relocating households in all 75 units could cost up to $365,513 to give financial help to residents who face permanent or temporary relocation.

Sims said the authority will accept bids from potential buyers once the Berkeley Housing Authority Board approves a Request for Proposals at its meeting April 14. Though the authority has yet to arrange a similar inventory removal application with the California Department of Housing and Community Development to sell its 14 state-funded units, it plans to sell all 75 units to one organization.


Contact Sarah Burns at [email protected]

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