City of Berkeley receives support to protect tenants, preserve affordable housing

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The Partnership for the Bay’s Future, with funding from other organizations, provided the city of Berkeley and the East Bay Community Law Center with a “challenge grant” and support to advance tenant protections and preserve existing affordable housing through policy changes.

The East Bay Community Law Center, in partnership with the city of Berkeley, will receive $220,000 in grant money over the next two years to develop properties for affordable housing, according to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

“We have a collective responsibility to help the housing crisis,” Arreguín said. “This is a collaborative cross-sector effort to address affordability by really the three Ps: by protecting the tenants, by preserving existing affordable housing and by producing new housing. All those are really central to keeping our region diverse, affordable and equitable.”

The challenge grants were received by seven Bay Area governments in partnership with local community organizations, according to a Partnership for the Bay’s Future press release.

The grant program, which is managed by the San Francisco Foundation, is also funding a two-year fellow intended to help develop the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act and the “right to return” policy to prevent displacement and maintain housing affordability, according to Arreguín.

He added that he hopes City Council members will pass the two pieces of legislation within the coming weeks.

Rents in the Bay Area rose 24% between 2000 and 2016, while wages only increased 9%, according to Arreguín. He said the city could use the Partnership for the Bay’s Future $500 million general fund, created to finance opportunities around affordable housing projects, to buy existing apartment buildings and build new affordable housing in Berkeley.

“We are facing an unprecedented housing affordability crisis in Berkeley and in the Bay Area,” Arreguín said. “This has resulted in a more significant amount of peoples’ income going toward rent, which is resulting in huge inequality in our region and making it more difficult for people to remain in our region.”

Partnerships that received challenge grants other than the city of Berkeley and the East Bay Community Law Center include Alameda County, Resources for Community Development and Oakland in partnership with the Bay Area For All Preservation Table, according to the Partnership for the Bay’s Future press release.

Seema Rupani, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, said in a statement that the challenge grant provides resources and leverage for the city’s anti-displacement and preservation policies.

“We hope the outcome will be real, lasting change for low-income communities and communities of color — both to remain and thrive in this city, and to have a seat at the table in future policy making,” Rupani said in the statement.

Contact Olivia Buccieri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.