Glendale's stock of affordable housing falls far short of meeting the community's need and officials say the loss of state redevelopment dollars means there's little the city can do to bridge the gap.
Waiting lists for city-monitored rental housing that serves low-income and disabled residents often contain hundreds of people competing for future vacancies in buildings with just a few dozen units to begin with, according to a report submitted to Glendale Housing Authority members on Tuesday.
At Metropolitan City Lights, a 64-unit project on Gardena Avenue for low-income families, 700 families remain on a waiting list that closed in 2010.
The waiting list for Palmer House, a 21-unit development on Palmer Avenue for low-income seniors, closed in 2011 with 624 people still on the list today.
"There's a huge backlog of people," said Ara Najarian, a Glendale City Councilman and member of the city's Housing Authority Board. "Probably the most common resident inquiry I get is housing availability, how to find affordable housing in the city."
But officials say the shortfall isn't for lack of trying.
City efforts to develop affordable housing have produced rental units for 228 families and helped 98 others purchase homes over the past two decades, said Anne Bockenkamp, the city's housing coordinator.
Glendale currently has 29 city-monitored affordable housing projects that total 1,007 rental units, including 449 earmarked for fixed-income seniors, according to the report.
But most of those units were funded by redevelopment dollars, which are no longer available to cities, and federal housing funds that have been slashed in recent years, officials said.
"Our budget for creating affordable housing is way down in spite of huge demand, so we just can't keep up," Najarian said.
According to the city's report, only 55 affordable units are currently under construction at six projects that took advantage of state "density bonus" provisions, which let developers build more units in exchange for renting some of them below market rate.
City Manager Scott Ochoa said that Glendale probably does more than most neighboring cities of comparable size in offering affordable housing.
"[But] when you look at the 2010 Census and the fact that we lost population, I have to believe … the biggest reason is the cost of housing," Ochoa said.
Income thresholds for affordable housing projects vary, but a large number of Glendale's affordable housing rental units are populated by working adults and their children, according to the report.
To qualify as "very low income," a family of four typically has an annual income of less than $42,000 per year. To qualify for some low-income housing, the annual earnings ceiling for a family of four is about $68,000.
Most tenants of affordable senior housing count on Social Security as their sole source of income, according to the report.
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