Demand for affordable housing greater than available units

The need for affordable housing in the city continues to outpace availability, officials say, even with new developments in the pipeline.

The Burbank Housing Corp., a nonprofit housing developer created in 1997, provides affordable housing opportunities and has been at the forefront of trying to bridge the gap between demand and supply.

“We've seen it increase with people losing their jobs, and a dramatic increase in the last couple of years,” Executive Director Judith Arandes said.

The organization has tried to respond by converting some housing units designated for moderate-income clients to lower-income stock, she added.

“We're committed to mixed income, but we needed to tweak the system to adjust to the socio-economic situation,” Arandes said.

With the drop in rental prices, moderate-income households are not facing as great a need as people with less income, she said.

“If a moderate-income unit is sitting empty for three months, we would rather rent it to a lower-income person or family,” Arandes said.

A two-person household earning between $54,561 and $61,450 falls in the moderate-income range, according to the Burbank Housing Corp. Two people jointly earning $20,500 or less would be considered to be in the extremely-low-income segment.

Arandes said the process of applying to live in one of the BHC’s projects includes making sure you are on the correct list for your household size and income. A master list of names is addressed in chronological order, and preference is given to people who work or live in Burbank, she said.

People cannot apply for specific properties, such as the new 20-unit Catalina Development that could open by Jan. 2013.

The organization is moving to a lottery system when it opens its wait list again, she said.

A call-in process has been used and within 15 to 30 minutes, the list would be filled, Arandes said.

“We would spend the rest of the day telling people, 'I'm sorry,'“ she said. “It's very frustrating.”

People interested in properties with the nonprofit should check back after Nov. 1 for information on future openings, she said.

The organization has a wait list of about 300, she said, and families that are already in the system that need a larger or smaller units are given preference.

Every year the lists are checked for income eligibility and family size, she said.

“It's as fair a system as we can come up with,” Arandes said, noting the lists are private and are not related to Section 8 housing.

Section 8, a voucher system funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has about 9,000 people on the wait list in Burbank, said Ruth Davidson-Guerra, assistant director of housing and redevelopment for the city.

Among the 9,000 are approximately 1,300 Burbank residents.

“There's a pretty low turnover with Section 8,” she said. “Burbank is a desirable place to live, and at this point in time, we don’t anticipate opening the list in the near term.”

Vouchers become available for different reasons and once people get on the program, they tend to stay because of their life situation, she said.

“In the last round, people were on the wait list for eight to nine years,” Davidson-Guerra said.

The city is allotted 1,014 vouchers and by December, all the vouchers will be exhausted, she said.

Just under 110 vouchers have been issued since 2009, she said.

“Demand outpaces supply by a whole lot,” Davidson-Guerra said. “It's frustrating for the community and the folks who administer it. With limited resources, it's a consistent problem not just for Burbank, but everywhere, and for affordable housing in general.”

For more information, visit www.burbankhousingcorp.org or call the Burbank Redevelopment agency at (818) 238-5180.

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