Without redevelopment, Glendale's affordable housing run faces hurdles

The daily phone calls at City Hall from people seeking affordable housing options are a constant reminder of how demand continues to outstrip supply. And with the demise of local redevelopment, officials warn there’s little chance of the trend reversing any time soon.

“We hear these people and their situations on a daily basis,” said Peter Zovak, Glendale’s deputy housing director. “We know it continues to be difficult.”

For every new project, there are thousands of interested applicants. The wait list for a federally funded rental subsidy has been closed since 2001.

And now with one of the main sources of funding for affordable housing — redevelopment — gone and others continually on the decline, the future looks bleak.

“The future of affordable housing becomes more problematic, as what was always a challenging endeavor has now become even more difficult,” Zovak said in an email. “We will be producing less affordable housing in Glendale and California, yet the need continues to rise.”

The first affordable housing unit in Glendale was developed in 1978, but the stock didn’t see a huge boost until two decades ago. In the 1990s and 2000s, roughly 600 affordable units were built in Glendale — about twice as much as in the 1970s and 1980s combined, according to city records.

And since 2010 alone, about 200 units — or two thirds of all affordable housing developed in the 10 years prior — have been built.

Zovak attributes the uptick to an injection of federal and state funding in the past, but those sources are drying up.

Gov. Jerry Brown called for the dissolution of redevelopment, which used incrementally higher property taxes, in order to send billions of dollars to Sacramento to close a budget gap. Redevelopment money, 20% of which went to affordable housing, would instead cover the cost of schools and public safety.

Redevelopment generated about $9 million a year for affordable housing in Glendale, Zovak said.

While several redevelopment projects are in the works — such as two home-ownership developments for moderate- and low-income families and two veteran-preferred rental properties — others have been shuttered.

Last year, the city set aside $175,000 from redevelopment to subsidize rent for nine Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking education or a job, but the city dropped that project, Zovak said. Officials also axed a similar one for low-income families.

Mayor Frank Quintero said he hopes the state Legislature creates a new way for cities to get state funds to launch more housing projects. But so far, those attempts have been unsuccessful.

In addition to losing redevelopment, Glendale is set to get a federal housing program allotment slashed by a 49% to $1.1 million.

“It takes five or six funding sources to build affordable housing. If any one of them is missing, you can’t do it. It doesn’t work,” said Lisa Payne, policy director at the Southern California Assn. of Nonprofit Housing.

California still requires cities to plan for affordable housing, but local officials say they’re losing the funding tools to set those plans in motion.

“It’s becoming another unfunded state mandate,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman.

Glendale has built about 1,140 affordable units since 1978, but 35% of the city’s nearly 68,000 households make less than $35,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The housing market has been broken for a long time,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of Housing California. “It’s not just Glendale, throughout the state it’s very difficult for a significant segment of the population to find housing they can afford."

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