by Lynda Carson
Oakland – Around Oct. 16, a settlement agreement was reached between the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) and the Oakland City Attorney’s office regarding a Feb. 15, 2007, lawsuit by the City charging that 1,615 apartment units at 254 public housing sites were cited for code violations and unsafe living conditions.
In the settlement, the OHA agreed to respond to complaints within two business days and to inspect problem sites on a weekly basis. The OHA owns over 3,300 apartments, making it one of Oakland’s largest landlords.
In addition, as recently as Sept. 22, during a late night session in the crowded meeting room, the Oakland Housing Authority Commissioners unanimously passed relocation plans for 3,885 low-income mostly African-American residents of Oakland’s public housing.
In a separate vote that same evening, the OHA board members passed the disposition plan, with one abstention and one board member missing. The vote allows the OHA to move forward on its plan to file an application with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requesting permission to dispose of 1,615 public housing units by selling them to an unnamed affiliate of the OHA.
Oakland may end up losing $10,717,140 per year in federal funding if HUD grants it permission to dispose of the 1,615 public housing units, which may result in the displacement of 1,554 low-income families from Oakland’s public housing. Those families include 3,885 poor people – mostly children, young mothers, the aged, disabled and infirm.
Just Cause Oakland, Bay Area Legal Aid, the Public Interest Law Project, the National Housing Law Project and many of Oakland’s public housing residents all united against the disposition plan, while the East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) appeared at the meeting but declined to speak out in opposition to OHA’s plan to privatize nearly half its public housing.
Members of EBHO are already in partnership with the OHA in mixed income housing developments in Oakland and Alameda County that have displaced hundreds of low-income families from their homes in public housing. The members of EBHO stand to profit if they can manage to get their hands on the public housing properties being disposed of by the OHA for a nominal sum or for as little as $1 (one dollar) per parcel.
In addition to the 3,885 low-income residents facing displacement from Oakland’s public housing, over 500 more low-income renters are fighting against their evictions from the California Hotel and other Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI), properties. As recently as Aug. 27, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller said that he thought OCHI was running a shell game. He declined to approve OCHI’s request to evict the California Hotel tenants and ordered that they may remain in their homes until their next court appearance on Oct. 29 at the Hayward Hall of Justice.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.