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Alameda Housing Authority Green-lighted to Become an Independent Organization

By Erica Madison

At a Special Meeting of the Board of Commissioners last Tuesday night, the commission approved a proposal to deregulate the Housing Authority.

According to the director of the Housing Authority Michael Pucci and Alameda City Manager John Russo, Housing Authorities across the nation are not typically part of local government.

In fact, until 1981, Alameda’s Housing Authority was an independent organization. After a HUD investigation, however, in 1981 which showed that compliances were not being met, the City of Alameda took over the organization and employees became civil servant workers.

“I think we can do this in a way that makes economic sense. Housing Authorities have always been autonomous, because Housing Authorities have to deal with federal and state policies that are sometimes at odds with local needs and desires. Separation allows elected officials to avoid litigation issue,” said City Manager John Russo.

Pucci also listed a few more good reasons for the commission to consider making the Housing Authority an independent organization.

First of all, the Housing Authority doesn’t need operating funds from the City of Alameda, because they receive their money from federal funding such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and tenant rents.

Secondly, there would be no financial backlash for the City of Alameda if HUD decided to decrease funding.

Another benefit is that HUD will take more responsibility of overseeing the Housing Authority, thereby avoiding the problems from 1981, because HUD will not release funding to the organization until all compliances have been met.

Lastly, becoming independent will allow the Housing Authority to operate quicker, because the organization will no longer need to ask for the Board of Commissioners and the Housing Commission’s approval before making decisions.

Although the Board of Commissioners were intrigued at the possibility of saving money, Mayor Marie Gilmore, Commissioner Doug deHaan and Vice Mayor Rob Bonta were concerned about the separation process that needed to occur between the City and the Housing Authority.

Currently all legal services the Housing Authority requires come from the City of Alameda. Mayor Gilmore pointed out that the Housing Authority may not be able to afford outside counsel once it separates from the City of Alameda.

“Legal bills are fairly nominal. Once you transition to be your own entity I am afraid the Housing Authority won’t take general counsel, because of the expense,” said Mayor Gilmore.

Despite these concerns, Commissioner Beverly Johnson pushed for an approval and the proposal was unanimously approved. City Manager Russo and Housing Authority director Michael Pucci will return at the end of October to present a more detailed proposal.

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