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$1.4 Million Earmarked for Housing the Needy

Times Staff Writer

After years of delay, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency this week accepted a state mandate to set aside tax revenue from its booming downtown redevelopment zone for low-cost housing.

Agency members Tuesday voted unanimously to allocate $1.4 million--20% of the estimated $7 million in property taxes that the city will earn this year from its redevelopment zone--toward providing city-subsidized housing for low- and moderate-income families and senior citizens.

The action marks the first time the city has set aside its own funds, rather than using federal and state grants and subsidies, to finance housing for the needy.

In the past, provisions of state laws allowed the city to circumvent measures designed to force local governments to provide affordable housing.

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Legislation Takes Effect

But state legislation that became effective this year requires Glendale, and all other cities in the state with redevelopment zones, to either set aside a portion of its redevelopment revenue or accrue a debt for low-cost housing.

Since the city has prided itself on its ability to avoid municipal indebtedness, officials agreed to allocate the required funds, although how the money will actually be used to help the needy is not expected to be determined for at least several months.

Councilman John F. Day, the lone Democrat on the five-member board that also serves as the City Council, said the action is long overdue. He said the city has “a moral obligation, if not a legal obligation” to provide low-cost housing.

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“If I’d had my druthers, it would have been done two years ago,” said Day, who voiced the only opposition when the city took advantage of legal provisions that initially permitted deferment of housing obligations until 1997.

Affordable Housing Pushed

The state for years has urged local agencies to set aside tax increment funds from redevelopment zones for affordable housing. Increment taxes are funds generated by the higher values that occur when an area is redeveloped. Instead of being collected by the county for distribution to various local government agencies, however, the funds are kept within the redevelopment zone, to be spent on more improvements there.

Council members in recent years have expressed growing concern about the plight of senior citizens who live on meager incomes in a city without rent control.

More than 1,400 elderly--most of them longtime Glendale residents --are on waiting lists for subsidized housing, according to a report issued last year by the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing for the Elderly.

But at least twice that number of low- and moderate-income families, often minorities, also are in need of low-cost housing, said Mayor Carl Raggio. He said the needs of the whole community must be assessed before determining allocation of funds for housing. On Tuesday, he called for a “rational split” of funds among low-income seniors and families.

Raggio’s stance has not been popular in conservative Glendale, where residents have rallied behind projects for needy seniors but have resisted housing for low-income families.

Councilman Larry Zarian, for instance, asked city officials this week if the city has adequate procedures to weed out welfare recipients who, because of increased income, no longer qualify for benefits. “This type of program could become a habit,” he said.

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Yearly Qualification

Madalyn Blake, director of community development and housing, assured Zarian that all residents who receive rent subsidies must qualify annually for the funds. As an example, she said, a family whose income has increased because a previously unemployed spouse or child has found work would no longer receive federal or state assistance.

Before the housing funds are allocated, Blake said, the city first must assess the needs of low-income families and seniors. She said a report and recommendations will be brought back to the redevelopment agency “within a couple of months.”

Among uses the city is considering are expansion of the housing voucher program, acquisition of land and construction of subsidized housing projects and rehabilitation of substandard units in the city.

City officials in 1986 pledged to allocate $550,000 in redevelopment funds and to donate land valued at $975,000 for a senior citizen housing complex proposed by Soroptimist International of Glendale, a professional women’s service organization. But that plan never materialized because the money pledged was insufficient, and the Soroptimists lacked the expertise to undertake the project.

$7 Million Federal Award

The Soroptimists have since formed a partnership with Southern California Presbyterian Homes, a nonprofit organization experienced in housing development.

The new partnership in September was awarded more than $7 million in federal funds to build a proposed 75-unit development for the elderly on city-owned land at Louise Street and Monterey Road.

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Blake said a portion of the city’s redevelopment funds set aside this week may now be used for the Soroptimist project, to offset land acquisition costs and to provide amenities such as balconies, which are not funded by federal money.

The city also is considering building a low-cost housing project on two adjoining city-owned lots at 549 and 605 E. Palmer Ave.

Glendale officials said the city will have to be cautious in developing a plan for spending its housing funds because private citizen groups in a few other cities have filed law suits challenging the legality of the purported use of housing money.


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