The Daily Californian Online

City's Plan to Sell Public Housing Raises Tenants' Concern

By Stephanie Baer
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Category: News > Housing

A plan to sell Berkeley's 75 public housing units to private developers was approved by the Berkeley Housing Authority in December and is currently under review by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If the plan is approved by the department, the units-located at 18 sites in Berkeley-would be sold to private developers, who would be required to renovate them.

Members of about seven families living in public housing held a press conference Tuesday evening to publicize their concerns about the plan.

Keith Carlisle, a public housing tenant who has been living in Berkeley since 1996, said that after the units are renovated, the current residents will not be able to afford them.

"A lot of the units have fallen into disrepair, but we also feel that that's an issue that they're trying to bring up to remove us from the housing," Carlisle said.

Berkeley Housing Authority officials affiliated with the plan were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

In an Oct. 27 letter to public housing residents, the housing authority said the residents would be granted a voucher under the Section 8 program run by the development department to help them pay rent.

Carlisle said he did not think having the voucher would provide his family with a stable home because not all landlords accept vouchers.

"We don't want to see ourselves in that position," Carlisle said.

Penelope McKinney, a single mother to her handicapped child, said that although she had been living in Berkeley private housing using a voucher for 20 years, her landlord notified her in October that the voucher would no longer be accepted.

"I've never been so scared in my life," McKinney said. "How do you take care of a severely handicapped kid homeless?"

Since notifying residents about the plan to sell the units, the housing authority has been holding meetings with residents to inform them of the plan's progress. Some residents said they feel these meetings have not helped them voice their concerns to the agency.

"The communication with (the housing authority) has been very poor," said Rose Flippin, a single mother who has lived in public housing for nine years. "They want to express what their concerns are, but when we start asking questions, we're shut down."

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the housing authority has not approached the city council about the plan. He added that there are not sufficient relocation funds to protect current tenants.

"I'm worried about the proposal," he said. "(Housing authority officials) need to modify it to provide a dramatic increase for protection of the current tenants."

Worthington said he will personally advocate on behalf of the residents if they lose their public housing. He added that the housing authority can ask for city funds to help fund the relocation process, but it has yet to do so.

"If they need additional resources to protect tenants, I think the council will provide it," he said.

Public housing residents have been holding meetings to discuss concerns regarding the plan every Saturday morning at Intercity Services, located at 3269 Adeline Street.

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