The Daily Californian Online

Berkeley Housing Privatization Plan Still Awaiting Approval

By Nick Myers
Contributing Writer
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Category: News > Housing

Berkeley Housing Authority expects to receive federal approval for its plan to renovate and privatize its 75 properties by Sept. 30.

After months of preparation, the Berkeley Housing Authority's plan to privatize and renovate its 75 city-owned properties still awaits a federal go-ahead.

In a presentation to the Rent Stabilization Board on Monday, the authority's executive director Tia Ingram outlined the department's progress on the project thus far and identified the steps that would follow project approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"They still haven't heard back anything from HUD, so they basically said they were waiting and continuing to get ready," said Steve Barton, the board's deputy director.

Although the board was expecting HUD approval for its plan in March, it now anticipates a green light on the project by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30.

In a July 13 letter to the board and the Berkeley City Council, Ingram said the plan requires moving the city's public housing inventory to private ownership because the authority "lacked the ability to generate the $4 million conservatively estimated for necessary capital improvements."

The letter also states that the authority believes privatization is the only solution to bring the units up to "current standards" and still adequately serve low-income residents in Berkeley. However, many tenants of public housing have remained opposed to privatization since it was announced last October.

According to Barton, no tenants were present at Monday's board meeting for public comment, unlike during previous presentations.

At the meeting, Ingram characterized privatization as the best course of action for the city due to a lack of continued federal funding and also reassured board members that current residents would be guaranteed affordable housing after the transfer is complete.

The letter recognized that the lives of current residents would be disrupted, "at least temporarily," but added that the "greater good" would be achieved.

"We remain confident that the Repositioning Project, while challenging, is the responsible thing to do and will result in a win-win-win situation for current and future low-income residents, the city of Berkeley and the Berkeley Housing Authority," the letter states.

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