Archive for August, 2019

State Supported Housing Development Will Help Some Homeless but Beyond Reach for Many Oaklanders

Permanent Supportive Housing for former homeless people in San Francisco.

 By Ken Epstein
Six affordable housing devel­opers have been awarded a total of $30 million to build 413 hous­ing units in Oakland, which will include 168 units of “permanent affordable housing” designed for the homeless and people with dis­abilities.

However, the other 345 units are classified as “affordable” for “low income households” require incomes from $75,000 to $99,000.

Most of these units are not con­nected to Project-Based Section 8 vouchers (PBVs) from the Oak­land Housing Authority (OHA) that subsidizes the rents and will be beyond the reach of most Oakland residents who live below Highway 580, and earn on the average about $40,000 for a family of four.

The 168 units of permanent sup­portive housing will be built on a model that combines housing that is affordable to families and indi­viduals experiencing homeless­ness with supportive services.

Supportive services can include case management, aid for those with physical disabilities, mental health assistance, and support with daily life activities. These units require Oakland Housing Authority Section 8 vouchers (PBVs) subsi­dies.

The six projects are:

  • Fruitvale Studies with 24 units, including 15 units for the homeless, 12 PBVs, plus nine “affordable” units
  • Brooklyn Basin (Project 3) with 130 units, 26 for the homeless, 65 PBVs, plus 104 “affordable” units
  • Ancora Place with 77 units, 15 for the homeless, 31 PBVs and 62 “affordable” units
  • 7th and Campbell with 79 units, 39 for the homeless, persons with dis­abilities and formerly incarcerated, 39 PBVs, plus 40 “affordable” units
  • West Grand & Brush (Phase I) with 59 units, 30 for the homeless, persons with disabilities and vets, 28 PBVs, plus 29 “affordable” units
  • Aurora apartments with 44 units, 43 for homeless and persons with special needs, 43 PBVs, plus one “affordable” unit

The six developments, which in­clude a mix of new construction and rehabilitated buildings, are being funded through the State of Califor­nia’s recently approved Proposition 2 — “No Place Like Home Program” – and the “Supportive Housing Mul­tifamily Housing Program” – fund­ed from Propositions 46 and 1C.

These developments are also funded by voter-approved Measure KK for affordable housing. Project completion date will vary from late 2019 through 2022.

“This is a great example of how city resources can leverage state funds to advance critical projects that will have a significant impact on our communities,” says Maraskeshia Smith, Interim Director of Housing & Community Development.

“These housing developments are incredibly important for addressing the needs of our most vulnerable pop­ulations,” noted Sara Bedford, Direc­tor of Human Services. “They are part of our overall strategy to address homelessness. Getting more proj­ects like this funded and operational is critical to addressing this regional housing and homeless crisis.”

“However,” said James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union, “without Oakland Housing Authority vouch­ers – which are in short supply – the housing will be out of the price range of most Oakland residents. A family of four would have to pay 60 percent of Alameda County Average Median Income (AMI), which would be an annual income of at least $74,340, well beyond Oakland families who earn about $40,000.”

According to the Oakland Hous­ing Authority, currently, there are a total of 2,018 applicants remain­ing on the Section 8 wait list, which was last opened in 2011, and there are currently 228 voucher holders searching for units. The number of available Section 8 vouchers is lim­ited by available federal funding.

Published August 24, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Black Workers Call for City Council Summit on Discrimination in Hiring on City Projects

Community meeting at the San Antonio Senior Center in the Fruitvale District to dis- cuss racial disparities in hiring African American workers and contractors on City of Oakland building projects, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

African American contractors and construction workers  are opposing a proposal that has been presented to the City Council requiring that all jobs on city projects should be awarded to building trades unions that discriminate against Black workers.

“It’s a pure power play right now,” said one speaker, who is a member of four unions.  “The (unions) are not designed to grow their membership. They are only designed to make the strong stronger.  If anything, the unions are a detriment to anyone starting off (in construction).”

In response to charges that unions want to control the hiring on all city projects while excluding African American members, the City Council had previously asked the building trades to submit reports on the race and gender of their membership.

So far, only six of 28 union locals have submitted that information, according to city staff.

Reports by construction workers on the job indicate that African Americans are denied membership in almost all of these unions, while Latinos only find work in the laborers’ and to some extent in the carpenters’ unions. The higher paid trades, such as electricians, plumbers   and heavy equipment operators are almost all white.

Speakers at the Monday meeting, where Councilmembers Noel Gallo, District 5; and Loren Taylor, District 6, were in attendance, want the City Council to hear their concerns, not to be steamrolled by powerful interests into an agreement without a full discussion of the issues.

They are asking the council to hold a work session or a community summit rather than voting on the labor proposal at a council meeting, where speakers would only receive one minute to talk, and important issues about persistent discrimination in the building trades might be buried.

The meeting was the third and final community engagement session called by the City Council to examine ways to mitigate inequities in a potential Project Labor Agreement, backed by local building trade unions and their supporters, requiring developers on city projects to exclusively hire union workers for labor, while non-union contractors would be limited in their use of their non-union workers for projects that are built on city-owned land and or involve city funding.

Speakers also expressed concern that the building trades only sent people to the first community meeting several weeks ago at Castlemont High School but did not come back to second or third meetings, apparently not interested in engaging with Black Oaklanders about the issues they are raising.

Published Aug. 22, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post