Affordable housing residents ready to stay

July 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the East Bay an important source of low income housing is facing a crisis. Owners of the California Hotel say they're broke, but the hotel's affordable housing tenants are prepared to stay, even though the property management company is pulling out.

"I've been here 20 years. This is my place, my bathroom," said Robin Menefee a tenant.

Menefee pays $645 dollars a month, all utilities paid, to live at the historic California Hotel. She'll be one of 72 residents remaining when the property management company abandons the California Hotel on Tuesday.

On Monday the tenants demonstrated because the property owner, Oakland Community Housing Incorporated says it cannot pay its management company, which collects rent, handles the utilities and security. By September 30th, the management company will abandon six other affordable housing apartments including 639 tenants.

"They may have one or two contract employees left. They may have a couple of active board members, and at the end of the day they have no money and I don't know what's going to occur," said Sean Rogan, the director of the Oakland Housing Department.

Even though the City of Oakland has pumped $1.5 million into O.C.H.I.'s 14 failing affordable housing properties to keep them afloat, Keith Muhammad of the Nation of Islam says the city bares some responsibility for not overseeing the contract with O.C.H.I.

"When this property hits the open market no one who lives here now will likely be able to live here again, because we will not be able to afford it," said Keith Muhammad from the Nation of Islam.

"They kept it open for 18 years and they sucked all the money out that they got from the state," said John Murcko, an attorney with the Eviction Defense Center.

Murcko believes O.C.H.I. is not bankrupt.

"These people are solvent, they own 13 buildings. They own 13 building probably worth $130 million. This is a fraud on the city and a fraud on the people of Oakland," said Murcko.

O.C.H.I. did not respond to ABC7's repeated calls on Monday, but on July 30th it will be in court to defend itself against accusations it encouraged tenants to move out.


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