Berkeley City Council to discuss living wage, Housing Trust Fund loan

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Berkeley City Council will meet Tuesday evening to return to various agenda items ranging from a $1 million Housing Trust Fund loan to a referral establishing a living wage for city employees, as well as Berkeley Police Department’s annual crime report.

First brought to the City Council agenda in September 2015, a proposed $1 million loan to the city’s Housing Trust Fund — drafted by Councilmember Kriss Worthington — is meant to support new affordable developments in the city, as well as attract developers to Berkeley by lowering predevelopment fees.

According to an information report from interim city manager Dee Williams-Ridley to City Council, Berkeley’s estimated market rent increased by 12 percent over the past year.

In previous years, the city has approved grants for the trust fund[,] but stopped due to the 2008 economic recession, according to District 3 planning commissioner Ben Bartlett. Recently, however, the economy has improved, and councilmembers are attempting to revert attention to the fund once more.

A special meeting in November 2015 was held to field citizen concerns regarding the loan — as well as city affordable housing at large. Several residents said replenishing the trust fund was a potential method to provide  support for housing serving low-income families, as well as disabled or elderly individuals.

City Council will also address the possibility of allocating additional property tax revenue to the Housing Trust Fund.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Council will also discuss an agenda item recommending the city manager develop a more detailed plan for eight classifications of city employees that are currently paid below a living wage, including some seasonal, temporary and intermittent workers.

The city living wage is currently set at $16.37 per hour, taking into account a required hourly medical benefit of roughly $2. An existing living wage ordinance already ensures some city employees this hourly payment.

In a recommendation from Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington, City Council hopes to create a living wage pathway within one year.

A new action item will also be presented to City Council recommending a community meeting be held either on campus or at Willard Middle School to further discuss a city ordinance regarding mini-dorms and group living accommodations.  

During a September 2015 ASUC Senate meeting, city representatives presented the new proposed provisions, such requiring a “responsible resident” present to deal with waste disposal, respond to complaints and report any notices from the city to building owners.

In addition, BPD Chief Michael Meehan will present an annual crime report — highlighting a nearly 13 percent increase of violent crimes in the city — during a special meeting preceding the regular meeting.

Adrienne Shih is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneshih.