Taking Action for Affordable Housing

On March 3rd and 10th BCA members and allies watched the documentary PUSH which exposes the commodification of housing. Suggested actions posted by viewers are listed below. We will meet to discuss next steps for Berkeley at the March 17th Steering Committee Meeting at 7pm (see events calendar for details).

If you missed watching PUSH, here are links to watch the movie or share it. You can download and watch the movie for $12 (organize your own Zoom watch party). Use this link to find information for educational institutions/non-profits with budgets for bigger audiences. You can view a short summary here, and sign on to the International Strategy to recognize Housing as a Human right. 

SUGGESTED ACTIONS
Find Allies: Moni Law: There are celebrities like Danny Glover, and Marshawn Lynch and Brad Pitt and others who are helping buy up and protect properties.

Support current approaches to add housing justice... TOPA, Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act.. work with City Council members who support TOPA as a new law to allow tenants to purchase… And Land Trusts to purchase properties for permanent affordable housing to ensure real affordability- and community based not corporate control (Moni Law).

Build the conversation with young people on the value of social housing as the answer to unaffordable housing. Kate Harrison: Young people are right to demand changes in land use – too many resources in too few hands — but the answer is not more capitalism but more social housing. Relying on the development industry to solve this problem is the fox guarding the hen house. But we should not demonize the young who are suffering along with others being displaced. Matthew says DSA is a way to reach them.

Require low income units, not the substitute fee  Moni Law: The Berkeley City Council has power under the Inclusionary Ordinance to demand developers set aside 20% BMR units on site. I don’t know that they have to offer the payment option into the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fund (which is inadequate and only builds elsewhere and years later).  Negeene Mosaed, Barbara White, others: BMR is also still too high… need housing for very low, no income. Carole Marasovic: City Council could require only BMRs and not the affordable housing mitigation fee at least in certain geographical districts. In order to have quadruplexes covered for BMRs would have to be zoning changes where the 5th unit by same developer would be a BMR.  Currently, only if you develop five units,  are you subject to BMR rules. Candace hyde-wang: Why would a developer put in an affordable unit when they can do 4 profitable ones?  Basic flaw in the idea of market rate development.  

Increase availability of Section 8 Units (Negeene) Carole Marasovic: If Section 8 or another subsidy were to be accepted, it would still be at a profit for developers since government is paying the subsidy. Require the 5th unit to be BMR as would be the case if these were fiveplexes not quadplexes.  That way, the developer absorbs the BMR cost, assumes responsibility.  More people receive affordable housing. Moni Law: Write in the ordinance that Section 8 is first preference among applicants to fill the low income BMR units. The program has a definite fault of being overpriced for most low income people even in BMR allotted units. Sabyl Landrum: Section 8 is basically closed to new applicants with long wait lists. Otherwise eligible folk can’t afford even BMR unitsLandlords discriminating against Section 8 Carole Marasovic: HUD under Trump released NED vouchers (Section 8 for homeless), Additional Shelter Plus Care certificates.  The housing was available in Berkeley but many landlords discriminated against those with vouchers and other subsidies despite a Berkeley ordinance to the contrary.

Institute Vacancy penalties (jaijnoire): Vacancy penalties. Stiff ones & increasing for repeat offenders. Moni Law: There’s research underway to pressure action on vacant properties to pay a vacancy tax. Sabyl Landrum: Big disconnect when people are unhoused and units remain vacant
 
Oppose trickle down real estate” story: Peter Mui: our elected officials have bought the “trickle down real estate” story that building luxury and market rate housing will eventually depress housing prices. To start working on opposing “trickle down housing theory” send an email to the North Berkeley Neighborhood Alliance: nbneighborhoodalliance@gmail.com

Protect affordable BART housing: Peter Mui Berkeley CA US: There is an immediate opportunity to defend Berkeley from the expropriation/extraction of the wealth of Berkeley by BART and the real-estate developers it is allied with.Need more units designed for sharing

Require that units with more than 2 bedrooms have 2 bathrooms (2 master bedrooms) Gabrielle Wilson: Two families would save money if they could share rent for 2 bedroom 2 bath apartments but developers and builders work with bankers and investors to prevent multi-generational or more than one family living in one unit and sharing the cost by flooding neighborhoods with 2 bedrooms one bath units.

Discourage speculation in new quadplexes. Candace Hyde-Wang: There was a house on Milvia developed into 4 units. Final sale price was around $5 million. This is what Yimby is pushing. That cannot be housing for the poor or the “missing middle”. Berkeley should require that all of these new rental units…or a good percentage of them..be sold to individuals after 10 years. These could go to the teachers and firefighter and other workers. Carole Marasovic: Set a price limit for a finite period of time for new quadruplexes,  limit the number of quadruplexes as well as the 5th BMR unit? Set rules for transfer of ownership? Implement a hefty Anti-speculation Tax for flippers. https://belonging.berkeley.edu/belongingrichmond-antispeculationtaxDoes Berkeley require all past-due taxes and code enforcement penalties be cleared before county records a property transfer official.

What is Berkeley doing to monitor the management of Berkeley’s formerly public housing: treatment of tenants, maintenance, costs, sales

Oppose landlord monopolies: Sigrid Mueller: Activists in Berlin are organizing a referendum to expropriate “Deutsche Wohnen,” the largest real estate company in Berlin. They own about 110,000 apartments in Berlin alone. If they get enough signatures, the referendum will be included on the federal election ballot in September.

Take action on Pension Funds: Kate Harrison: We have a movement to get pensions out of fossil fuels. Should we start a movement here? BTW, I am in CALPERS and they are doing worse than before REITS were created. I am being harmed as a retiree as well.

Oppose YIMBYs. Carla Woodworth: Take on Yimbys directly. Moni: I agree that the YIMBY’s are very slick and dangerous… we need to call them out and speak out every time.. at ZAB, Planning and City Council mtgs. 

ID funding received in election campaigns and in councilmembers operations. Skinner and Buffy (Buffy $50,000). Matthew Lewis: real estate PSC funded Terry Taplin/Sharenko ($10K).  Current laws protect independent expenditures. How do we counter? Candace Hyde-Wang: concerned about council people using Yimby as consultants or using their programming to define city planning. Our issue is only affordable housing. The council should focus on that.
 
Who owns rental property in Berkeley
New Berkeley rent registration program will tell us a lot about rentals in Berkeley requires most rental units to register even if not covered by rent control: units completed after 1980, most single-family homes, most condos. See city webpage here.  Per Kate: Letters went out to non rent controlled units about a month ago, Registrations due Mar 15. Expect initial analysis by summer, administered by Rent Board. City’s Measure MM webinar: overview of registration, rights, and responsibilities for landlords & tenants on Weds, April 14, 10:00 – 11:30 am.  [potential BCA online event]  
Kate Harrison: We have nearly 5000 homes/condos in Berkeley where the owner isn’t claiming the homeowner exemption, presumably rented.
Carla Woodworth: need a forensic accountant to track the money. Carol Denney: The owners info is available at the City Clerk’s office, public information.
Sabyl Landrum: the role and impact of the large investors/hedge funds is hidden because they form LLCs and hard to trace to the larger corp so you will have 123 a street llc which is owned by another llc which is owned by Blackstone
candace hyde-wang: State-wide issue.  There needs to be a low and moderate income strategy.  There needs to be some examination of conglomerate ownership and an attempt to unwind it though eminent domain or other means. Changing the zoning state-wide will allow them to make billions in profits by developing these units. There needs to be a statewide survey of residential ownership by private equity and other conglomerates.  I believe they should be forced to sell.  California can take the capital gains and build low-income units. 

Examples of international successes, what are the lessons here: 
People are winning in Germany, they have forced return of apartments to social housing sector (negeene mosaed). Matthew Lewis: They also won rent control in Berlin recently
How Vienna created affordable housing Carla Woodworth
4 plex in Cambridge, MA–all affordable. Carla Woodworth; Carole Marasovic: How, in Cambridge, were they able to persuade that all 4 units be affordable? How is affordable defined in Cambridge? That term is used loosely to define a wide range of incomes. Would be interesting to have a Cambridge City Councilmember discuss their affordable housing overlay. This is a possible way to hold off the land speculators.

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