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Stealing public housing from Oakland's poor

Submitted by News Desk on Mon, 09/28/2009 - 12:51pm

Oakland -- On Monday September 28, at 6:00 p.m., there will be a
hearing at the Oakland Housing Authority in the commissioners meeting
room that is designed to assist in the further taking of Oakland's
public housing units from the poor, through the promotion of the
proposed LHAP (program) being discussed to facilitate the disposition
of over 1,600 public housing units, from Oakland's poor.

Terri (real person) is a middle aged poor black homeless woman on
General Assistance, who was lucky enough to find a one bedroom public
housing unit on Kirkham St., in West Oakland, for only $61.00 per
month for rent, including the security deposit.

After waiting for two years on Oakland's public housing waiting list,
Terri was notified during the past week by the Oakland Housing
Authority (OHA) that a one bedroom apartment became available for her.

With no other means of support other than General Assistance (GA)
which only aids indigent adults with a maximum cash grant of $336.00
per month in Alameda County, Terri feels extremely grateful that
public housing exists to help people like her to get off the streets,
and into some housing of their own.

Even the worst of Oakland's crime ridden bed bug infested hotels
charge way more than what GA recipients can afford on a monthly basis
for rent, and most notorious so-called non profit housing
organizations refuse to rent to the poor unless they have Section 8
vouchers that can be exploited, or have a minimum income of around
$1,000.00 per month, or more.

Without public housing, there would be no housing available for Terri
or millions of others like her across the nation who are down on their
luck, lack enough skills to compete on the open job market, or do not
have the minimum high school diploma needed to become eligible for the
lowest of low-end paying jobs in society.

Terri says, "I think public housing is a very good thing because it
helps out low-income families who need a place to live, and have no
other place to reside in."

Like millions of others across the nation, Terri has been left
hopeless and homeless in a brutal dog eat dog capitalist society that
gives no mercy to those that have been tossed into the trash bins of
society, and are left to wither away along the path of starvation,
misery and death, until a lucky break occurs such as a public housing
unit opening up, that finally offers them some solace and salvation
from the violent desperate streets of harsh economic times.

Meanwhile, long time Oakland low-income renter Benjamin Fulcher is
very concerned about the plans to dispose of more than 1,600 public
housing units in Oakland, and said, "Getting rid of public housing is
a bad thing. Where is everyone to go who needs public housing in the
future? There is no replacement for public housing, and there never
has been. These holdouts in the housing authority and their partners
in the so-called non profit housing sector have been corrupted by
eight years of the Bush Regime and are shortsighted people who are
profiting through their partnerships taking place, to steal Oakland's
public housing away from the poor."

When considering the dire housing situation for the homeless and
working class poor across the nation, it raises a lot of questions as
to why Oakland is on the fast track to dispose of and eliminate it's
much needed public housing units that serve the needs of low-income
households like Terri's and thousands of others like her, in this ever
deepening economic depression.

The Disposition Plan For Over 1,600 Oakland Public Housing Units

Oakland has over 3,300 public housing units and the plan to privatize
half of it's public housing units through the disposition plan, is a
scheme meant to enrich others at the expense of stealing public
housing units from Oakland's poor.

Currently, the OHA contracts with Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
to provide public housing to low-income households in Oakland and is
reimbursed by HUD for around $500 per public housing unit on a monthly

But under the new Section 8 model being promoted to end public
housing, the OHA and their affiliates may be reimbursed by HUD for as
much as $900 to $1,000 for the same rental units if the plan works out
to their way of thinking. Unfortunately for the poor, this scheme
results in the loss of Oakland's desperately needed public housing
units, and in the future public housing will be one less option for
the homeless needing a place to call home.

In a nut shell, the OHA wants to determine which of it's small
scattered public housing sites that are occupied with very low-income
households, will be sold off, so that the proceeds can be used to
build much larger privatized mixed income housing projects for higher
income residents, like the Hope Vl mixed income housing projects that
have displaced the poor all across the nation.

For the plan to succeed, the OHA wants to convince public housing
tenants to trade in their rights to public housing, for a Section 8
housing voucher, and will try to explain to the low-income households
what their options are once they no longer are public housing

As an example, public housing tenants may still reside in federally
subsidized public housing units if they receive an increase in their
salary while on the job, but Section 8 voucher holders may lose their
voucher (housing subsidies) at times, if and when they receive
increases in their income that affect their eligibility to remain in
the program.

The disposition plan for over 1,600 public housing units owned and
operated by the OHA, signals the end of public housing as we know it
if other Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) follow suit and switch to
the Section 8 model being promoted by the OHA for the disposal of it's
occupied public housing units.

As for the OHA's plan to dispose of over 1,600 public housing units,
in a September 2008 press release from OHA consultant Jo Ann Driscoll
around a year ago, it states, "The OHA has been under funded by the
federal government for 14 years, creating a significant backlog of
maintenance and repair projects. While the federal government cuts its
funding of the public housing program, funding for Section 8 vouchers
receives strong federal support. The planned disposition will
re-position Oaklands scattered site apartments to be funded by Section
8 instead of Public Housing."

"As part of the disposition plan, OHA will transfer ownership of the
properties to a registered 501(c)(3) housing organization, that will
be affiliated with the Housing Authority. The non-profit affiliate
will be responsible for the management and maintenance of all the
units on sites scattered throughout the City of Oakland and work
closely with the OHA under binding agreements. Any excess cash flow
associated with these properties, not needed for operation,
maintenance or repair, will be restricted to use by the OHA to develop
new low income housing."

In a nut shell, the disposition plan amounts to being one huge
kickback scheme, intended to siphon away precious federal housing
assistance dollars from the poor low-income tenants in the Section 8
voucher program, and divert those precious resources to properties
owned by the OHA and their affiliates.

As OHA Director Jon Gresley put it in a recent Oakland Tribune
article, "The extra money will be used to finish rehabilitating the
agency's aging and in many cases, blighted and crime-plagued housing
stock, which is estimated to cost $100 million. The money will also be
used for management of the properties. We're hoping they (public
housing tenants with Section 8 vouchers) don't move and stay where
they are at, but there will be some who want to leave. There are
people who have been living for 10 or 15 years in one community and
wanted to leave but couldn't get a voucher in the community where they
wanted to move. These (vouchers) are portable so they can be used
anywhere in the open private real estate market."

The end result of this process will mean that there will be less
money in the budget for existing low-income Section 8 voucher holders
during a severe funding crisis that currently exists in the program
all across the nation, and will further result in the loss of public
housing units for the poor in Oakland.

The disposition plan is a proposal that defies the best interests of
Oakland's low-income public housing and Section 8 renters, being
placed at risk by the OHA and their affiliates seeking higher revenues
for their prospective organizations.

LHAP Will Facilitate The Plan To Dispose Of Oakland's Public Housing Units

The OHA's Board of Commissioners will conduct a Public Hearing on the
draft proposals for the "Local Housing Assistance Program" (LHAP) at
the OHA's main office on Monday, September 28, at 6 p.m. in the
Commissioners Room, 1619 Harrison Street, Oakland, CA.

The public is welcome to speak out against the plans to dispose of
Oakland's public housing at this meeting, by speaking out in
opposition to the proposals and plans to implement LHAP by the OHA,
which facilitates in the disposal of Oakland's public housing units.

The LHAP proposal is designed to allow the OHA to provide a seamless
transition in the disposal of Oakland's public housing units currently
occupied by Oakland's poor, and will be funded through the OHA's
Moving To Work (MTW) program's local fund reserves, and not directly
from HUD's Section 8 annual contributions contract, or operating
subsidies for Oakland's public housing program.

In addition, the LHAP is totally designed to get around the normal
rules and regulations that currently apply to most other Public
Housing Authorities across the nation that are intended to protect
existing public housing and Section 8 renters in those programs, and
will result in placing Oakland's public housing and Section 8 renters
at risk if LHAP is allowed to proceed as is being proposed.

Currently, the economy is currently so bad, during mid September the
OHA opened it's waiting list for public housing and project-based
Section 8 properties to the poor, and a total of 93,654
pre-applications were submitted to the agency by low-income households
seeking subsidized housing.

The disposal of Oakland's public housing units and the accompanying
LHAP proposal will result in longer waits for those trying to move
into public housing units or assistance through the Section 8 voucher

In a nut shell, LHAP is a recipe for disaster to low-income Oakland
families that depend on public housing to exist for them in future
generations to come, and is against the best interests of the poor.

According to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA),
the federal public housing program was created by the U.S. Housing Act
of 1937, and is currently home to almost 3 million seniors, people
with disabilities and low-income families with children; approximately
one million children live in public housing.

As a simple reminder as to why Oakland should be active in the
pursuit of protecting it's public housing while seeking full funding
from congress to properly maintain and preserve it, rather than
embarking on a desperate scheme to dispose it's public housing units,
it should be noted that more than half (52%) of all public housing
residents are elderly or people with disabilities.

Anyone interested in preserving and saving Oakland's public housing
units from the disposition plan, is welcome to speak out in opposition
to the LHAP proposal at the 6:00 pm, September 28, OHA commissioners
meeting, and by sending your written comments to OHA's, Mark
Stephenson, Director of Leased Housing, 1805 Harrison Street, Oakland,
CA. 94612

Written comments for or against the LHAP proposal meant to facilitate
the disposal of Oakland's public housing units, must be received by
3:00 pm on October 2, 2009.

 Lynda Carson may be reached at,