Comments on Berkeley Housing Element

Screen shot 2015-03-09 at 7.55.51 PMThis is from John’s letter to the Planning Commission for the February 18 hearing:

It is clear from the Draft Berkeley Housing Element document that Berkeley is falling short of providing a mix of affordable housing for lower income AND middle income residents. I will focus on middle income residents, and particularly in my view an acute need for additional family housing within the City of Berkeley. Recent projects within the City have included a limited mix of primarily studio rentals and high-end rentals and condos, but units falling in the middle of these two extremes are, in comparison, few. I cite Table 1-1 as an example, which indicates that between the years 2000 and 2006 Berkeley provided only 4% of the Regional Housing Needs Determination as set by ABAG for moderate-income residents. Further, Table 2-14 indicates a lack of Renter Occupied 3 and 4 bedroom units, units which could be utilized by moderate to large size families.

I quote from the Objectives section of the Draft: “Berkeley residents should have access to quality housing at a range of prices and rents.Housing is least affordable for people at the lowest income levels, and City resources should focus on this area of need.

I do not argue with the egalitarian goal of this statement, but in reviewing the documentation in this Draft it is clear to me that the middle class, and particularly moderate-income residents with children (i.e., families) are the ones primarily being squeezed for housing in Berkeley. I do not see that trend reversing without an emphasis on strategies and programs to address this essential need.

John T. Selawsky
Member, Berkeley Tenants Union
Commissioner, Rent Stabilization Board