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Disabled seniors in Glendale will be able to apply for a rental subsidy beginning this fall

Mike Van Gorder, a member of the Glendale Tenants Union, speaks alongside renters from southern Cali
Glendale city officials have been developing a housing subsidy program for elderly renters for several months. Groups like the Glendale Tenants Union, pictured, have argued that rising rents in the city are sending long-term residents packing.
(Jeff Landa / Glendale News-Press)

A planned housing subsidy program for Glendale residents will target disabled seniors struggling to make ends meet, following direction given by City Council members earlier this month.

Qualifying applicants will be able to enter a lottery for a two-year, $300 monthly subsidy beginning in October, according to a staff timeline presented during a special meeting on June 11.

About 1,000 households will be selected to take part in the pilot program, which is set to begin making payments in March and is part of the city’s multipronged strategy to address rising rents in the area.

During the meeting, Glendale City Council members agreed that the program will only be open to extremely very low-income households, where all residents are over 62 years old and at least one has a mental or physical disability. Households with at least one resident over 75 years old will be given priority.

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“We have to put more restrictions, to make the group of people that come to apply smaller,” Councilman Vrej Agajanian said.

Agajanian was referring to the fact that the city received 18,000 applications after launching a housing lottery for 31 affordable units.

“[The need is] going to far outstrip the number of individuals we can help.” Mayor Ara Najarian said. “There’s going to be 1,000 happy people and about 15,000 unhappy people.”

Mayor Ara Najarian said he suspects the limited number of slots will fill up with disabled applicants, adding that goal of the subsidy is to help the city’s most vulnerable residents.

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If a household drops out during the program’s two-year period, the city can select another household from a waiting list to replace it, council members also decided during the meeting.

However, the replacement household will only receive the subsidy for the amount of time the initial household had left. Subsidies will last a maximum of 24 months, Zovak said.

Only seniors earning 30% below the area’s median income will be eligible to enter the lottery, equating to to $21,950 for one person and $25,050 for two, according to a city report.

In early June, council members earmarked $4.2 million of the city’s annual budget to be used for the first year of the subsidy program. About $3.6 million will be used for direct assistance, according to Peter Zovak, the city’s assistant director of community development.

Those funds will come from a local sales tax increase, known as Measure S, which was approved by Glendale voters in November.

An additional $20 million of the approximately $30 million expected to be generated annually from the tax was set aside for affordable-housing development.

A report on the subsidy and a marketing campaign for it will likely come back to City Council for consideration in August, according to Zovak.

Based on U.S Census data, 63% of Glendale residents are considered rent burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their gross income toward rent. A majority of the city’s newly homeless cited rising rents as the primary reason for ending up on the streets, according to a recent survey.

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As part of a broader legislative push to address the issue affecting the state, the city this year has passed an ordinance strengthening renters’ rights and another requiring developers to offer affordable units in new housing projects.

While city officials envision the planned subsidy as rental assistance, recipients will be given a direct deposit they can use toward expenses such as rent, food and medicine, Zovak said. Residents who receive the money will be asked to report how they are using it, he added.

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