Seven cities in the East Bay will receive a total of more than $28 million in state affordable housing grants — but Berkeley is not one of them.
The grants, awarded by California’s Strategic Growth Council at its June 30 meeting, are part of a statewide total of about $120 million in funding for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, which helps fund affordable housing and sustainability projects. According to the council’s strategic planner Mackenzie Wieser, Berkeley did not apply for the grant.
Igor Tregub, vice chair of the city’s Housing Advisory Commission, said he did not think the housing commission was informed about the application.
“We try to keep pretty close tabs on what the city is doing,” Tregub said. “I had the impression this one just slipped through the cracks, which is unfortunate, given the opportunity receiving such a grant would have presented.”
Out of the 28 housing and transportation projects statewide that are being funded, the 11 in the greater Bay Area will receive a total of about $47 million.
Some of the cities in the East Bay that received funding include Richmond, Emeryville and Oakland, each receiving more than $4 million. The money will help fund more than 400 units of affordable housing in the East Bay and more than 300 additional units in the Bay Area.
Tregub said he plans to bring up the grant at the next housing commission meeting and hopes the commission can find a way to make sure the city doesn’t “drop balls of this magnitude.”
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that Berkeley “urgently needs more, not less, affordable housing funded” and that this grant could have helped.
Berkeley’s monthly median rental price for housing has increased more than 50 percent since 2000, from $740 in 2000 to about $1,160 in 2012, according to U.S. Census data.
City spokesperson Matthai Chakko could not be reached for comment.
Berkeley Rent Board chair Jesse Townley said that not receiving the funds was unfortunate and that, considering the grants are project based, it “may speak to the emphasis of many developers on luxury and market-rate units.”
“Luxury housing is the Donald Trump of Berkeley, which is distracting from the urgent need for affordable housing,” Worthington said in an email.
The Strategic Growth Council brings together various departments in the state of California — including the Consumer Services and Housing and the Food and Agriculture departments, as well as the governor’s Office of Planning and Research — in order to coordinate activities such as improving air and water quality and supporting affordable housing.
Funding for the affordable housing program, including the grants, comes from auctioning off greenhouse gas allowances as part of the state’s Cap-and-Trade Program.