Glendale officials: Affordable housing options slim

The Fhardos have been waiting for subsidized housing assistance in Glendale for 13 years and, after attending an affordable housing informational meeting hosted by the city Monday night, the elderly couple said they felt more in the know, but frustrated by their slim chances.

“It’s so hard,” said 62-year-old Angela Fhardo, who cares for her blind husband, Jose.

The retired husband and wife were two of 12,000 people who applied for Section 8 housing in Glendale back in 2001. Since then, the wait list has been closed and city officials only pull people off as funding becomes available, which isn’t often, said Cindy Williams, a Section 8 supervisor with the city.

Section 8 housing is paid for by the federal government.

Even as people may leave the program, money may not become available. Two years ago, the city’s Section 8 program had a $1 million deficit which city officials had to bridge with Section 8 reserves, Williams said.

“The number of people we’re assisting is decreasing each month,” she said.

But the need is still out there, Councilman Zareh Sinanyan said during the meeting at Cerritos Elementary School, which was attended by about 120 people. The high attendance at the meeting, which was the first of three meetings slated, highlighted the need in Glendale, said Sinanyan, who had asked for city staff to host the events.

“We’re acutely aware of how serious this issue is and we want to make sure there’s as much information as possible,” Sinanyan said.

Williams said the wait list is continually changing, and officials scrutinize the finances of households that receive the subsidy. Some at the meeting complained they see people they know who receive the Section 8 subsidy driving fancy cars, but there’s more to the story, Williams said. The city may count the car as an asset, giving the household a smaller subsidy, she said.

The city once did a sweep of Section 8 recipients to check on those owning cars such as BMWs and Jaguars, but most of the vehicles were very old and few were worth more than $20,000, said Mike Fortney, the city’s senior housing project manager.

Most people who receive Section 8 housing make about $14,100 annually and 91% are extremely low-income, Williams said.

One’s spot on the list is determined by a point-based system that gives priority to seniors, the disabled and Glendale residents. The Fhardos were moved down on the list when they moved out of Glendale a few years ago because they couldn’t afford an apartment in the city on their combined $1,300 monthly income.

“There was nothing else we could do,” Angela Fhardo said, adding that the couple lived in Glendale for more than 20 years before they had to move to Eagle Rock for cheaper rent.

“If we stayed here, we would have been homeless,” she said.

Those waiting don’t know where they are on the list and some have called on the city to publically display the rankings so people can be aware of their chances. But Williams said it’s city policy not to tell people where they are on the list.

“We don’t want to do that. It gives people false hope,” she said.

While Glendale has several affordable housing developments in addition to the Section 8 program, it’s rare that a unit opens up. For new projects, city officials host a lottery, Fortney said. For Gardens on Garfield, a 30-unit project completed in 2010, the city received about 5,500 applications, Fortney said.

Three new projects are currently in the works, a 44-unit project that just broke ground in the 300 block of West Salem Street, an 18-unit rehabilitation project for seniors in the 300 block of East Cypress Street and a three-unit condominium Habitat for Humanity project in the 800 block of East Chestnut Street.

Recruitment for the Habitat for Humanity project is over. The other two projects will have lotteries, but priority will be giving to veterans, Fortney said.

Building new projects will become more difficult in the future because there are fewer federal and state funds available. Glendale has added 1,127 affordable housing units during the past decade, but the demand is overwhelming, Fortney said.

Fortney is working to create an interactive webpage to show off when affordable housing units become available. But for now, people can call the city’s housing hotline at (818) 551-6902.

Glendale officials plan to host two more affordable-housing informational meetings. The next one is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Pacific Community Center, 501 S. Pacific Ave., followed by one at 6 p.m. on Monday at the Adult Recreation Center, 201 E. Colorado St.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated the upcoming affordable-housing informational meeting would be Friday. This is incorrect. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.


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