Photo: Courtesy of Judy Hunt
Photo: Courtesy of Judy Hunt

Name: Judy Hunt

Job: Non-profit executive and consultant

What office are you are running for? Commissioner, Rent Stabilization Board

What is the main reason you are running? I am running for re-election as a Commissioner. I won in 2012 as a small property owner, raising issues concerning older adult tenants and property owners. I also continue to address critical issues regarding people of color, who reside in West Berkeley and South Berkeley with long term rent controlled units. Issues related to the gentrification of West Berkeley and South Berkeley impact small property owners, whose units remain well below market rates. Tenants in those units are impacted as available housing for seniors, moderate and low income people are not readily available in communities they call home.

Why are you qualified for the position? I am qualified to continue as a Commissioner for the following reasons:

A. I am a small property owner whose property has been under rent control for over 20 years. I know the responsibilities of being a good landlord.

B. I have been a tenant and I know the issues of tenants, their rights and responsibilities.

C. As a non-profit executive, I have experience running large agencies with complex budgets, and I have prepared organizations for federal site visits. I know the key factors regarding executive management, talent recruitment, hiring, retention and staff equity, agency transparency and financial accountability for how monies are allocated and spent.

D. I address critical concerns for a population that is overlooked without a voice or vote at the decision-making table.

E. Having developed public policies regarding health, housing, children, youth and families and older adults, I am familiar with what and how public policies affect people in their daily lives.

F. I bring a strong sense of fairness and social justice to the table. As the agency prepares for the eventual retirement of the current executive director, I bring clear knowledge of executive attributes that are needed for the next leader.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I bring experience as: a tenant, small property owner, non-profit executive, board member and public policy maker. I bring a consensus building style of interaction by listening to my commissioner colleagues with a willingness to collaborate and resolve problems without rancor.

I bring to life real anecdotal testimonies to the table to illustrate the point that cookie cutter public policies do not resolve issues without careful thought to the consequences of quick policy decisions.
I know Berkeley as a community with an historical reference point of Berkeley being a restricted community years ago when people of color could not be in the city after 5:00 pm. I also remember Byron Rumford, the South Berkeley pharmacist who ran a thriving pharmacy on Sacramento Street, who started the Fair Housing Movement that eventually became law in the 1960’s. His work with then Governor Edmund G. Brown, laid the foundation for rent control in Berkeley. When my commissioner colleagues and current candidates for office speak with sound bites, they often miss the salient nuances of how rent control affects older adults and people of color in Berkeley. I speak with specific instances within ah historical context.

How did you end up in Berkeley? A Bay Area native, I was born in Alameda and raised in Berkeley and Albany. I started school at Franklin Elementary School that is now the Adult Education campus. After attending graduate school in Ohio and working in New York and New Jersey in international and local public health, I returned to my childhood neighborhood.

What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future? 

The three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future are:
1. Leadership. We need people in city government who are critical thinkers with skill sets and cultural competencies with exposure to a range of people with diverse experiences. Public policies should not be based on who can “”fire up”” a political base to score points and win. We need people who have the needed skills with an evidence based and best practice experience model, along with humility to work with others with whom they disagree. No one political mindset is the “”right mindset””. People in leadership need to think of our community as ever evolving not stuck on one formula to fit various needs of our citizens.

2. Deciding what kind of city we will become – a city that is open to utilizing the expertise and resources of UC Berkeley to assist the city with its complex and often competing priorities. There tends to be some resentment of the University as “”elitist”” yet a schizoid yearning to live near the campus to reflect one’s intellectual acuity. The reality is the University needs to become a community partner in resolving some of the city’s issues. Will Berkeley become a city divided – one with luxury living and the other struggling to live?

3. Health and Housing for All. Berkeley is facing a critical dilemma: how to create and maintain housing for all income levels within a limited geographic space? Even with rent control, there is still homelessness in Berkeley, a lack of housing that is safe, habitable and affordable for all. Rent control is limited to 21,000 units. Luxury units created in the downtown area are exempt from rent control. Legislating an aging rental stock with aging owners does not solve the problem of a lack of supply of rental units.

What are your ideas to solve them? 

The Rent Board needs to address the transitions in rental housing. Aging older adults are living longer in their own communities. Aging property owners at some point need assistance with their rental business. The Rent Board needs to develop and promote seminars for children/relatives who are transitioning in becoming responsible property owners. Seminars need to be held in evenings and weekends, as noon at the main library may be convenient for staff , but not property owners who work or cannot attend noon meetings for one hour in downtown Berkeley.

We need to take a more comprehensive integrated approach to housing. Most of our work and planning are done in silos, without making key connections – how health, housing and socio-economics are inter-related. We need to engage UC Berkeley talent in our discussions around Berkeley in the 21st Century. Tiny houses and cooperative living are some creative ideas; however those ideas may not appeal to a large segment of the population.

We need to address the social justice issues related to housing. If our city promotes luxury living downtown, how will those residents pay into the infrastructure to maintain their luxury lifestyle? Traditionally, whenever our city officials need revenue, tax measures are put before property owners. We need to have some critical conversations about luxury living versus struggling to live in Berkeley.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? We need to develop a strategic plan for the next decade. We need to begin with critical conversations with community residents in each district. We need to engage our business community, UC Berkeley community and housing professionals. Developers need to understand their social responsibility of “making good by doing good.”

How will you be accessible to constituents? I will continue to listen and learn from residents by walking and engaging with community residents in local neighborhoods. I learn a lot from tenants by just stopping by some buildings and learning how satisfied they are with their units. Also, I will continue to respond to senior tenants and landlords when they ask to meet with me. I encourage both tenants and landlords to attend rent board committee meetings and commission meetings. As the chairperson of the Eviction, Section 8, Foreclosure Committee, I encourage community residents to bring their issues to the table for future agendas.

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $5,000+

A final thought? I am a Pro Tenant Good Landlord advocate. The tenant landlord relationship needs to be one with mutual respect. Landlords should deal honestly with tenants and provide safe, habitable housing. Tenants should maintain a clean habitable unit and promptly inform landlords of needed repairs. Our elders helped make Berkeley the city we call home. We need elder tenants and property owners to enrich our lives with their wisdom of life experience. Let us honor their frugal investments and reward their retirement years with stability and peace of mind. Everyone deserves dignity and a sense of belonging in a vibrant community.

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