Investigation into Oakland non profit housing organization underway
By Lynda Carson
Oakland -- During Tuesday's March 31 City Council meeting, Councilman Ignatio De La Fuente announced that the state Attorney General's office has been contacted and that an investigation into the non profit housing organization known as Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI) is underway. "The results of the investigation should be available in 90 days," said Councilman De La Fuente.
Tenants and activists at Tuesdays council meeting were pleased to hear that their efforts to have an investigation into the activities of OCHI were no longer being ignored by the City, but were deeply disappointed that their demands to have more oversight instituted over the way non profit housing organizations are spending millions in tax payer dollars on their housing projects, has been rejected by City officials.
"Millions of dollars in funding that has been given to OCHI has corrupted the housing organization. It's staff stole much of the money through the years and as soon as the City stopped giving money to the organization, everybody disappeared," said local attorney John Murcko, a representative of the tenants at the California Hotel, an OCHI property.
A petition with over 500 signatures was delivered to the City Council at Tuesday's meeting, requesting that the City of Oakland ask the City Attorney, District Attorney and the Attorney General of California to investigate and bring civil action and criminal charges against OCHI, Dwight Dickerson, Charles Fowlkes, and Eleanor Piez for fraud, misappropriation and endangering of senior citizens by using City funds for their salaries instead of repairs at OCHI properties and eliminating rats, bedbugs, and roaches.
"We shall have to keep an eye on things and make sure that in 90 days, the City is forthcoming with the results of the investigation into the corruption and failures of OCHI," said attorney Murcko. " The tenants at the Oak's Hotel are very concerned about the City's plan to give away their housing to another non profit housing organization, especially after seeing how the City failed to properly regulate and oversee the way that OCHI operated it's low-income housing projects during past recent years."
The citizens petition to the City Council also requested that any new allocation of monies to the non profit housing organizations known as Resources for Community Development (RCD) and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), must be used for repairs at the proposed OCHI properties they want to takeover, and that the monies must be kept in a separate repair account, and that the non profits are required to make reports to the City Council every 90 days as to how the money is being spent. The activists are demanding that the money cannot be used for any salaries of the employees or staff in the non profit housing organizations, and that the money shall be returned in 90 days if used for salaries at any of OCHI's properties that may be taken over by either of the non profit housing organizations in the near future.
The request for oversight of the non profits were rejected, after a number of activists spoke out in opposition to Agenda Item 10.6 during Tuesday's City Council meeting. Agenda Item 10.6 offered $10 million dollars to local non profit organizations for major renovation proposals at the following properties, that may displace hundreds of households in the process from their housing after renovations are underway. The housing sites include Drachma Housing, Effie's House, Hugh Taylor House, the Posada De Colores Apartments, Eldridge Gonaway Commons, the Foothill Plaza Rentals, Marin Way Court Apartments, the Oaks Hotel, and Slim Jenkins Court.
In addition to funding major renovation projects at housing sites citywide, the City has been asking local non profit housing organizations to step up to the plate and take over OCHI's abandoned but occupied rental housing properties since OCHI claimed it was broke in 2008, by offering millions in funding for renovation of the properties, plus offering to give the properties away for free to the non profit housing organizations that are willing to get involved. Since it's inception, OCHI developed 25 low-income housing sites citywide, and local non profit housing organizations are scrambling to get a piece of the action. In addition to offering millions to those willing to accept the properties for free, the City is offering an additional $5,000 per unit in developers fees for up to as much as $150,000 per project, including legal fees in case any lien holders or OCHI holdouts decide to challenge the take over of OCHI's properties in court.
Low cost loans of $4.3 million being offered by the City of Oakland to EBALDC and as much as $3.7 million being offered to RCD for the major renovation proposals at low-income housing sites citywide, including funding for OCHI properties and the transfer of OCHI's properties to the non profits, have concerned tenants and activists alike because over 500 low-income households may be displaced after the property transfers and renovation projects get underway. Additional funding is also being offered to Affordable Housing Associates and the Unity Council for major renovation projects at a few other Oakland housing sites.
No plan or funding was offered for the relocation costs that would be needed for the more than 500 households, that may be displaced once the major renovation projects get underway.
In addition, as recent as a March 17, City Council meeting, EBALDC was before the City Council asking for an additional loan of $990,000 in affordable housing funds to subsidize it's Sausal Creek homes project for a total loan of $3,980,000 from the City after EBALDC realized it had problems selling their homes because they cannot compete with the low price sales of home foreclosures in the Bay Area. Activists are concerned that there may not be enough oversight of the non profit housing organizations to keep EBALDC from using loans being offered for renovation projects of their apartment buildings, at their Sausal Creek home project instead.
After Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller accused Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI) of running a shell game during 2008, when he kept in place a restraining order to keep the tenant's of the California Hotel from being unlawfully evicted or having their utilities and water shutoff, other local non profit housing organizations came under closer scrutiny after tenants and activists realized that there was rampant corruption, and a lack of oversight occurring in the realm of corporate subsidized housing in Oakland.
Lynda Carson may be reached at, email@example.com