The Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) is working on a possible sale of its 75 public housing units to Related California.
The agency was negotiating exclusively with the firm in December. Officials from both sides said they still were in the early stages of a possible transfer, with Related California closely examining a transaction that involves 15 scattered sites.
Related California is part of Related Cos., a prominent New York City-based real estate firm. As a result, some local advocates have been blasting the move, saying a sale of the properties to a for-profit business and its wealthy owners jeopardizes needed public housing.
However, Related California has a deep history of developing affordable housing and partnering with public housing authorities to rehabilitate units, said Lydia Tan, executive vice president at the firm.
“It’s very much part of the DNA,” she said.
Tan has long been part of the affordable housing scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, having been executive vice president at nonprofit BRIDGE Housing for many years. She joined Related California about a year ago, opening the company’s first Northern California office.
Related California is working on projects with the nearby Oakland Housing Authority and San Francisco Housing Authority.
If an agreement is reached in Berkeley, the units would no longer be public housing owned by BHA. However, both sides stress that the apartments will remain affordable. Plans call for them to become Sec. 8 units to ensure their affordability. Existing eligible residents will have first priority for the rehabbed units.
According to BHA, a transfer would allow for the rehabilitation and preservation of the units. There’s an estimated $4 million in needed repairs that the agency cannot afford. Since 2005, BHA has been designated a “troubled” housing authority by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
BHA issued a request for proposal from developers and owners interested in the acquisition and rehabilitation of the properties in 2011. Two proposals were submitted, with BHA entering negotiations with Related California.