Time to Support Tenant Opportunity to Purchase (TOPA) in Berkeley
For years, EBCOHO members have asked us how they can buy property and create affordable cohousing and cooperative communities here in Berkeley and Oakland.
Well, the time has come --- both cities are considering a new Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) which will make that more possible than any time in the last 25 years! TOPA means tenants will get notice from landlords before their building goes on the market, and can band together to make an offer, or designate a community partner to negotiate on their behalf -- and then be eligible for public funds.
TOPA is the Only Future for Cooperative Affordable Communities in Berkeley. Ask City Council to pass the Tenant Opportunities to Purchase Act
Over the years, EBCOHO has brought together many people with a vision of creating a community of homes. Pooling funds and/or government loans to build a new housing cooperative like Berkeley Townhouse, or Savo Island Co-op, was possible in the 1960s and 1970s. Buying existing apartment buildings or cottage court like Parker Street Coop or Addison Court Coop or Berkeley Cohousing was possible without public funds in the 1980s and early 1990s.
At this point, the prices and the speed and the secrecy of real estate sales with unknown buyers using investment fund cash not available to ordinary people, even with households with two incomes, the majority of people, people with moderate or low incomes.
TOPA, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act is the best possibility Berkeley, like the rest of the Bay Area, continues to face a housing crisis, one driven by a hot housing market and record high construction costs, and a thirty year shortfall in new housing built throughout the state. New market rate housing, even with density bonuses for a few below market rate units, is closely related to displacement of tenants living nearby as the rents on existing housing stock driving up market rates for new apartments and single family homes.
Realtors and rental property investors have come out strong over the past year promoting misinformation and outright lies against a bill that requires tenants be notified of the sale of their home and be allowed a few weeks to organize a collective bid or request a pre-qualified community housing development organization to bid on their behalf.
The owner is not required to accept that bid, but if they receive a bid they like, the tenants have another smaller window of time to make another offer. OWNERS choose at all times when, to whom and the price. NO ONE IS FORCED TO SELL AT ANY TIME TO ANYONE except at their own choice. There are even exemptions if for some reason they need to sell quickly for medical or family emergencies. A group called BRIDGE Association of Realtors put out anonymous flyers on the steps of Black Churches claiming TOPA was a racist land grab and a return to redlining (segregated neighborhoods). Why would anyone want to distort TOPA? Because Realtors don’t want properties taken off the market.
With 75% of the city’s low-income census tracts at risk of or undergoing displacement and a continued loss of thousands of Black households, Berkeley desperately needs anti-displacement strategies that prioritize low income renters and communities of color. One of those strategies is the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).
TOPA prevents displacement by empowering tenants with choices for their future housing when the owner of a rental property decides to sell (learn how it works here!). In Washington, DC, TOPA has helped preserve over 3500 units of affordable housing since 2002, and those numbers continue to grow.
Berkeley’s TOPA policy is designed to:
Prevent displacement of low-income communities of color and marginalized tenants
Create permanently affordable housing
Create pathways to ownership for tenants and promote democratic residential management
Stabilize housing for existing tenants
Give tenants choice and voice regarding their housing
Make sure buildings needing costly repairs for safety and accessibility without forcing prices above what tenants can pay
Protect rental housing from speculative investment by keeping them in the community
Now is the time for Berkeley to pass a TOPA policy that helps meet Berkeley’s housing crisis and needs.
We can’t do this without you. Raise your voice for TOPA today!
we’ll include your digital signature in our attendance at a council committee meeting discussing TOPA this Thursday. Not sure yet? Want to help recruit others? Join our Zoom call Wednesday at 5:30 PM.
Please support the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). The time to support TOPA is now. It's been tested in Washington, DC for 40 years, modified for Berkeley's needs and is an important tool in preventing displacement, preserving racial and economic diversity and creating pathways to ownership and long-term neighbor cooperation and resilience.
TOPA can be part of addressing our community's history of exclusionary policy and promoting a Berkeley of opportunity and stability.
As a member of East Bay Cohousing, I believe that TOPA can help make it easier for me to stay in Berkeley and co-create permanently affordable community.
I urge you to vote YES on TOPA and will stand behind you in your support.