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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

June, 2008


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Elderly Disabled Housing Is Safe And Secure
By Karen Nakamura

Last month we examined the crisis in public housing and touched fleetingly on Bradley House, one of six low-income and disabled housing complexes run by the Marin Housing Authority and HUD. Rumors and perceived innuendo were growing that Bradley House was inline for demolition.
Consternation grew when it was noted that many national 30-year contracts are running out and not all of them are being renewed in favor of workforce housing. Is Bradley House going to have its contract renewed, is the expensive property on which it stands going to Workforce Housing or will it be sold to private developers?

Bradley House sits half way up the hill in downtown Tiburon. It's hard to spot because it sits low to the hill and blends in with the neighborhood. A small complex, flowers tumble down its embankment, trees and decorative grasses grace its lawn. Twelve studio units sport sliding glass doors and small but pleasant porches. One resident found his was the perfect place to grow orchids. Three cottages in back, while tiny, were designed with Marin County esthetics. Many residents have lived there for years. Primarily seniors, the oldest two are in their nineties and they run the gamut of disabilities. This is a place Marin County can be proud of.

Caught in the usual financial bind yet responsible for the less fortunate, in 1979, the Marin Housing Authority formed a subsidiary non-profit corporation, the Marin Housing Development and Financing Corporation, which was given the task of rehabilitating the old Tiburon School into low income housing for seniors and the disabled. The Town of Tiburon deeded the school property to the Housing Authority. HUD's project-based Section 8 housing, under a 30-year contract, subsidizes the upkeep of the compound.

In June of 2007, former MHA Executive Director Barbara Collins revealed during a closed review of her work that she wanted to break the public/elderly/disabled housing contracts a couple years shy of 2009. At the time, she was also the executive director of Marin Workforce Housing Trust, which was seeking feasible sites in Marin to build workforce housing. Questions of conflict of interest soon appeared. Adding to the anxiety, Cathy Cortez, the complex's representative on the Tenant Advisory Board, was told (by Deputy Director of the MHA, Nanette Beacham-Sparks) that MHA wouldn't be renewing the Bradley House contract.

Apparently, there has been a misunderstanding. That or Marin housing officials have decided to table the subject. Whatever, Dep. Dir. Beacham-Sparks gave this simply but concise reply to our question about contract renewals.

"In response to your inquiries regarding Bradley House in Tiburon, there are currently no plans to dispose of the property or not request an extension to the subsidy received from the U.S. Department of Urban Development."

Needless to say, this is good news and a relief. Marin County has always shown sensitivity to its obligations unlike some others government entities. However, in March, residents were asked to comment on a possible change in the tenant selection policy. In it, MHA included a comment about adding a preference for higher income workers. What was behind the inclusion of such a question? Did it refer to workforce housing? Or that there is a need for extra income and it might be raised with higher income residents?

However, Ms. Cortez tells us, "Unlike the public housing properties that the housing authority owns and administers, the Bradley House property is not facing financial shortfalls or budget constraints. The Marin Housing Development and Financing Corporation reported assets of over one million dollars in 2006." She goes on to say that "The Bradley House program is not broke or broken. There is no need to 'fix' it. With the aging population in Marin County the need for senior (and disabled) housing is only going to increase. The limited housing available for low-income senior and disabled residents needs to be preserved and protected. There is no argument that there is a desperate need for workforce housing, but it should never be at the expense of the very low income residents and the homes in which they live."


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