Friday, August 1, 2008

OHA's Step in the Right Direction

Greetings JAMMI!

Oakland has 254 scattered Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) public housing sites (not referring to Section 8). Many of these small public housing properties like those of your typical 4-unit complexes are strewn across all of Oakland, but especially in the flatlands. OHA recognizes the challenge of managing so many properties with limited number of staff from their OHA Police, Maintenance, and other supporting departments. As a result, many of these properties are currently blighted, crime-infested cancers that plague our communities.

West Street Watch (WSW) experienced two of these poorly managed buildings that housed and attracted significant drug and other illegal activities. Through a tedious and lengthy process, OHA was forced by WSW actions to evict the drug dealers and rehabilitate the deteriorated buildings. Our community, like all Oakland communities, deserve peace and should not need to take such extreme measures to resolve OHA problems.

WSW is encouraged to see new OHA leadership like Eric Johnson take control and move to create positive changes. One of his initiatives is to request from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove a restriction tied to OHA public housing properties that require that they be used solely for public housing. As reported by Mr. Johnson at the NCPC Beat 6X July 24th meeting, removing the restriction will allow OHA to consolidate the number of their properties that they would have to manage. Possibilities include demolishing some properties or selling others to developers. Furthermore, any displaced OHA public housing tenants will be provided Section 8 vouchers which can be used throughout all of the United States, excluding Hawaii.

WSW believes that OHA is taking a step in the right direction. WSW supports this innovative idea to reduce the number of scattered, uncontrollable OHA public housing properties. This will result in a manageable number of remaining properties. Please see below this post OHA's Frequently Asked Questions. A draft Application can be found at:

Please provide your endorsing comments to remove the public housing requirement to Ann Dunn, OHA Senior Policy Analyst at Comments are due September 6, 2008 and will aid in the approval of OHA’s application to HUD.


Regarding the Planned Disposition of Public Housing Scattered Sites

Question: What does Disposition mean?

Response: Disposition is the transfer or sale of a property from one entity to another. For the purpose of the proposed scattered site disposition, OHA plans to sell the scattered site properties to a non-profit corporation. The non-profit will be an affiliate of the Oakland Housing Authority and the Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will have a role in the decision making process with regard to the properties in the future.

Question: Why is the Oakland Housing Authority considering the disposition of its scattered site units?

Response: To increase and preserve the affordable housing opportunities for low-income families in Oakland. Over the last several years, the Oakland Housing Authority has received far less money from HUD to operate its public housing units than the actual cost of operating such units. One major goal of removing the units from the public housing program is to have enough income from Section 8 to manage, maintain and repair the properties.

Question: Why is OHA going to transfer the units to a non-profit corporation?

Response: The transfer of ownership to an affiliated non-profit organization is a necessary step to take the units out of the public housing program. The OHA Board of Commissioners will still have a role in making decisions about the properties.

Question: Why is ORA submitting a Disposition Application first and then submitting a request for vouchers only if the Disposition Application is approved? Why not ask HUD for both disposition approval and vouchers at the same time?

Response: HUD regulations require that the request for Section 8 vouchers be made only after a Disposition Application has been approved.

Question: What is the timeline for the disposition process and how soon will OHA know whether its application to HUD has been approved?

Response: There is no way to predict how long HUD may take to respond to the Disposition Application. As a very rough estimate, OHA has been advised that it may take three months or more before there is a decision. If HUD approves our application, it may be another year, or more, before vouchers are issued.

Question: What happens i f HUD does not approve the Disposition Application?

Response: If HUD does not approve of the disposition application, the units will remain in the public housing program and nothing will change.

Question: What happens if HUD does approve the Disposition Application but does not approve the request for Section 8 vouchers?

Response: OHA is making clear in its application to HUD that it will not move forward with the disposition if Section 8 vouchers are not provided. If the disposition application is approved, but the request for vouchers is not, OHA will not move forward with the disposition and the units will remain as public housing.

Question: If the disposition application is approved, and vouchers are issued, will current residents of the scattered site properties be required to move?

Response: No! No one will be required to relocate. Any family in good standing (current on their rent and in compliance with their lease) who wishes to remain in their unit after vouchers have been issued may do so.

Question: Who will be responsible for the management and maintenance of the units after the disposition?

Response: The non-profit corporation will be responsible for management and maintenance of the units.

Question: What do scattered site residents need to do now to get a voucher?

Response: There is nothing that needs to be done now. There is no application to complete, nor is it necessary to get on a waiting list.

Question: What if scattered site residents missed the public meetings where the disposition application was discussed? Will this hurt their chance of getting a Section 8 voucher?

Response: The purpose of the public meetings is to share information about the planned disposition and to hear resident feedback. Attendance at the meetings is not required and missing the meetings will not affect your ability to get a voucher in the future.

Question: If a family decides to stay in their current scattered site unit after they have been issued c Section 8 voucher, will the family be responsible for additional costs?

Response: No. Currently public housing residents are responsible to pay for their PG&E bill and OHA pays for water and Waste management (trash) costs. This will not change if vouchers are issued.

Question: What resources will the Oakland Housing Authority provide to families who wish to move after vouchers are issued?

Response: For a period of time after vouchers have been issued, OHA will pay for reasonable moving expenses for any family who wishes to move.
Question: If a resident chooses to move, will OHA provide money for security deposits?

Response: OHA will not provide money for security deposits_ OHA will provide information about organizations that may help with security deposits, but residents should be aware that help with security deposits is very limited. If a family remains in their current unit, no additional security deposit will be required.

Question: If a family decides to stay in their current scattered site unit after they have been issued a Section 8 voucher will their rent increase?

Response: Like public housing, Section 8 rent is based on income. However, unlike public housing, there are no flat rents in the Section 8 program. If a family decides to stay in their current scattered site unit, OHA will continue to calculate rent utilizing the public housing formula, including using flat rents. If the family later decides to move to a non-OHA unit, the Section 8 formula will be used to determine rent, which may result in a higher or lower rent amount, depending on the family's income and the rent of the new unit.

Question: What will happen to families who are not eligible for Section 8 vouchers?

Response: Any family in good standing (current on their rent and in compliance with their lease) who is not eligible for Section 8, or for whatever reason does not want to participate in the Section 8 program, will be provided the choice of moving to another public housing unit outside of the scattered site inventory or remaining in their current unit with a lease and rent amount determined under the rules of public housing. OHA will work with each family to ensure they understand all their options and make an informed decision.

Question: What are reasons a family may not be eligible for Section 8?

Response: Families in good standing (current on their rent and in compliance with their lease) with income that is at or below the income limit for the Public Housing Program (80% of AMI) will be eligible for the Section 8 Voucher. The Section 8 Program is generally limited to families earning up to 50% of AMI, but because scattered site residents will be treated as "continuing participants" OHA will be able to provide vouchers up to the 80% AMI limit. A family with income above 80% of AMI will not be eligible for Section 8. If this is the case, OHA will provide the family the choice of moving to another public housing unit or remaining in their current unit with a lease and rent utilizing the public housing formula, including using flat rents. Any resident who is not in good standing (not current on their rent or not in compliance with the terms of their lease) will not be eligible for Section 8. OHA encourages any family who is not currently in good standing to work with their property manager to resolve any issues, including entering into a repayment agreement for any back rent owed to OHA.

Question: How will OHA decide who gets the vouchers first? Is there a waiting listfor the residents of the scattered site units for the vouchers?
Response: OHA does not know at this point if HUD will provide vouchers all at once or will provide vouchers over several federal budget years. If vouchers are issued over time, OHA will develop a process for implementing the program property by property, based on the number of vouchers received as well as the physical needs of the property.

Question: How will residents know if and when the disposition application is approved and if and when Section 8 vouchers are awarded by HUD?

Response: OHA will keep residents informed of the status of the application process through notices to all scattered site residents when anything significant occurs. These notices will also be posted on the OHA website.

Question: If a family is given a Section 8 voucher, will it be for the same size unit as the family lives in currently?

Response: Vouchers are issued based on the current size of the household. If you choose to move with your voucher, your new voucher will be issued for your current household size, and any over or under housing of households will be corrected then. Families will be briefed to explain that they may have some flexibility for renting different sized units under Section 8.

Question: What will happen to families who have adult children living in the unit when the vouchers are issued? Will OHA issue more than one voucher per family?

Response: OHA will only receive one voucher per household. The voucher will be available only to the head of household on the current lease.

Question: Once (and if) the vouchers are issued, will families using them have to stay in Oakland?

Response: The vouchers will be like any other Section 8 vouchers. Once received, families will be able to move anyplace where vouchers are accepted (currently, any state in the United States, except Hawaii).

Question: Is the Oakland Housing Authority reopening its waiting list for the Section 8 Program?

Response: OHA is not reopening the Section 8 waiting list at this time.

Question: After disposition, who will be eligible to live in the units once a unit becomes vacant?

Response: Currently the units are available to families earning up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) (currently, 80% of AMI is $66,250 for a family of four). After disposition, the units will be further restricted to families earning up to 60% of AMI. Any family currently living in the units and earning over 60% of AMI will be allowed to stay in the unit, or to transfer to another public housing unit. Once units become vacant, any future occupants will be restricted to the 60% of AMI income limit. As units become vacant, OHA will provide first priority to families with Section 8 vouchers and may utilize project-based Section 8 resources to keep the units affordable.

Question: In the long term, what does the Oakland Housing Authority plan to do with the scattered site properties?

Response: Over the next five to ten years, or perhaps longer, OHA will look at each property on an individual basis to determine what options there are to preserve, repair or replace the scattered site units. Any future planning for the scattered site units will be done through a public process and witl resident consultation. In addition, the OHA Board of Commissioners will have a role in approving any plans for the scattered site properties.

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