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Oakland plans to abandon the poor in public housing

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:35pm

If the board members of the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) have it their way, Oakland may end up losing $10,717,140 per year in federal funding for 1,615 public housing units, which may result in the displacement of 1,554 low-income families from Oakland's public housing. This includes a total of 3,885 family members including children, the aged, disabled and infirm.

With a disastrous housing crisis in full bloom, home foreclosures at an all time high, while the market is saturated with tons of unwanted residential buildings due to a housing market that is as unstable as it has ever been, on September 22 the board members of the Oakland Housing Authority plan to vote on a scheme to dispose of 254 housing sites in Oakland, including 332 buildings mostly filled with very low-income African American public housing tenants.

This may cost an additional $1,036,000 or more in relocation costs to cover expenses for around a third of the public housing families being affected, if the majority of seven OHA board members vote yes on September 22, to apply to Housing Urban Development (HUD) for approval of the plan to dispose of 1,615 public housing units.

The OHA wants to abandon the poor to focus mainly on renting to higher income tenants, and if HUD grants it the authority to dispose of the 1,615 low-income public housing units, the OHA plans to transfer control of 249 properties to an unnamed affiliate, and sell the buildings for a nominal sum or for as low as $1 (one dollar) per building to the unnamed affiliate.

In 1991, the OHA created Oakland Housing Initiatives Inc. (OHI), a 501c3 nonprofit organization located at 5321 Telegraph in Oakland. The OHA set the 501c3 nonprofit housing organization up as an affiliate of the OHA. According to the OHA, OHI was founded as an affiliate of the Oakland Housing Authority for the purpose of developing affordable housing in Oakland.

According to documents filed with the IRS, OHI was formed to carry out housing development strategies at arms length from the Oakland Housing Authority. Documents have Ted Dang listed as OHI's chairperson as of 9/12/07. Ted Dang used to be a board member of the OHA, and is currently a board member of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, a partner of the OHA at Lion Creek Crossings mixed income housing development, along with billionaire Mark Stephens of the Related Companies, another partner of the same project that displaced 178 low-income public housing families from what used to be known as the Coliseum Gardens public housing complex.

Also operating out of the same address of 5321 Telegraph Ave., along with OHA's affiliate OHI, is Keller Housing Initiatives (KHI) another 501c3 nonprofit housing organization with a total of $9 million in assets, including a fund balance of $7.6 million left over after subtracting their liabilities from their assets. During 2007, KHI payed out over $242,000 in salaries and wages, while collecting over $140,000 in management fees for a project that provides 201 units of affordable housing for low-income persons displaced from urban renewal areas, or as a result of governmental action, according to documents.

With much speculation occurring as to which affiliate the OHA plans to transfer control of 249 properties too for a dollar per building, OHI or KHI may be the prime suspects to be picked by housing authority officials at some later date as the recipients of the disposition properties for one dollar per building.

Despite records showing that Oakland Housing Initiatives Inc. (OHI), is operating out of 5321 Telegraph, an IRS 990 tax record signed on 9/12/07 lists 1619 Harrison St., in Oakland as the property address for OHI. This is also the same address for the Oakland Housing Authority, and the same IRS documents also list an OHA phone number as a contact number to reach someone at OHI. If this is the final word on how the OHA allegedly plans to carry out housing development strategies at arms length from the Oakland Housing Authority, it is fraught with deception.

In a letter from Just Cause Oakland to the Oakland Housing Authority dated August 28, Kim Ota writes, "The concerns of residents of public housing have led us to oppose the disposition plan." In addition Ms Ota writes, "OHA staff provides vague ideas for properties and tenants, including redevelopment or sale of properties at the same time people are promised they can stay or go as they like. The affiliate who will buy the property for $1 each is unknown, and the rules regarding management and eligibility for future tenants have not been set."

The OHA is already trying to convince the poor to trade in their public housing units for the yet unobtained Section 8 vouchers, as part of the scheme to transfer 1,554 public housing units to an unnamed affiliate of the OHA. The OHA also claims that the tenants can use their Section 8 vouchers (if obtained) while remaining where their currently at, or that the families can move any where they want to with their Section 8 vouchers, if that may be the case. Presently, it is very difficult to move to many locations across the nation or locally with Section 8 vouchers, because other housing authorities refuse to accept transfers of Section 8 tenants.

In a nutshell, the OHA wants to convince HUD to release enough Section 8 tenant protection vouchers or replacement vouchers to cover the disposition of Oakland's poor from public housing, if the scheme to dispose of the 1,615 public housing units is acceptable to HUD. Meanwhile, during recent past years the Bush Administration and HUD officials have repeatedly tried to cut the HUD budget for Section 8 tenant protection vouchers and other housing assistance programs. In addition, theres currently around a $2 billion HUD funding shortfall for Section 8 project-based units occurring, and the battle between the house and senate and the Bush Administration over the funding levels for the Section 8 programs, makes the Section 8 voucher program very tenuous indeed.

HUD's budget was more than $83 billion during FY 1978, and for 2008 the presidents proposed HUD budget was only $35.2 billion.

It would be a huge loss to the citizens and voters of Oakland and an insult to the integrity of public housing advocates, to see their precious public housing properties handed over to the friends, and partners of OHA officials in the so-called world of corrupt affordable housing developers, for a dollar a property.

During early 2008, housing authorities across the state of California included proposals in their Annual PHA Plans to demolish or dispose of more than 14,000 public housing units, and theres no place left for the poor, elderly and disabled to go.

Theres no comparison to public housing and so-called affordable housing run by the so-called nonprofit housing sector. So called nonprofit housing developers such as Affordable Housing Associates in Berkeley demand that a poor person must have a minimum income of $8,400 annually to reside in one of their housing units, or at least $9,600 annually for 2 people to live together, whereas public housing tenants pay as little as 30% of their income, even if that means paying 30% of no income at all. Most public housing tenants who may be elderly, disabled or infirm may still remain in their public housing communities, even if they have no income at all.

Public housing is home to over 3 million seniors, the disabled and low-income families including over a million children, and more than half of all public housing residents are elderly or people with disabilities.

The Oakland Housing Authority wants to abandon the poor, in an attempt to serve people earning as much as 60% of AMI, in privatized mixed income housing developments, where public housing units once stood in Oakland.

In Oakland, if the disposition plan goes through, 80% of the families being disposed of from public housing earn less than 30% of AMI, while the average public housing tenants in Oakland actually earn less than 19% of AMI. With the whims of the housing market so unstable, many of these very low-income families may become homeless if they trade in their public housing for Section 8 vouchers.

In Oakland during the past year, city officials schemed with Oakland Community Housing Inc., a nonprofit housing developer to displace over 5oo very low-income renters from their housing, and both entities were sued in the process for violating the rights of the tenants.

East Bay Habitat for Humanity is currently involved in a project displacing 87 low-income families from the Tassafaronga Village, public housing complex in Oakland, in partnership with the Oakland Housing Authority.

Other nonprofit housing organizations that have been involved in projects displacing the poor from their public housing units in Oakland and Alameda County, include Bridge Housing, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, Eden Housing, and the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO).

In Dayton, Ohio, the PHA plans to demolish 1,500 public housing units, while 400 public housing units are threatened in Toledo, including another 783 public housing units in Richmond, Virginia.

A 2006 Harvard study reveals how we are losing 200,000 low-income housing units per year across the nation, while only around 100,000 much more expensive housing units are being built as replacement.

Since it's inception, the federal Hope Vl program has demolished over 120,000 units of low-income public housing, with less than 45,000 replacement units being built of much more expensive privatized mixed income housing developments, that discriminate against the poor.

The government and agencies such as the Oakland Housing Authority have a major role in providing public housing to the poor, elderly and disabled, and the notion of disposing of Oakland's public housing properties for a $1 per building or property sounds preposterous at best, and totally corrupt at the worst.

On September 22, at 1619 Harrison St., downtown Oakland (around 6m or 7pm), the OHA board members will vote on whether they should apply to HUD for approval of the disposition plan, that would dispose of 1,554 families from public housing in Oakland. The regular OHA Commissioner meetings follow the closed sessions, which generally start at 6pm. People need to be there a few minutes earlier before the regular meeting to sign up as speakers, to speak out against the disposition plan.

For more information on the disposition plan and the OHA Commissioners meeting schedule for September 22, contact Kim Ota at Just Cause Oakland 510/763-5877 or kim [at]

Lynda Carson may be reached at; tenantsrule [at]