By Brian CHERNICK
Glendale Housing Authority (GHA) engaged with the Glendale City Council in a joint meeting on Tuesday to discuss the second follow-up report on developing affordable housing within the city. GHA’s research and recommendations were presented in an eight-point plan after consideration and analysis of the current housing situation.
Seven out of the eight recommendations by GHA, and two options for modifying the current Just Cause Eviction (JCE) policy, were voted in the affirmative. Stakeholders have asked that any recommendations considered by Council be vetted through a collaborative process.
The move to consider a greater focus on affordable housing has come after numerous complaints by residents of rapidly rising rent and housing costs. Over the past few years, Glendale has seen an enormous boom in both commercial and residential development, particularly in the form of high-end apartments.
The general conclusion of GHA’s findings, presented by director of Community Development Philip Lanzafame, found that most reports call for increased housing production with an objective and focus on affordable housing. The report found that those impacted the most include seniors and the under or unemployed.
Council made a point to stress that what is being considered as a housing crisis is not a phenomenon unique to Glendale, or even California, but something that is being experienced in many cities throughout the nation.
The points presented included development impact fees, creating affordable housing bonds,
instituting incentives to build affordable houses, setting up inclusionary zoning ordinances, continuation of previous affordability efforts such as Section 8 and a density bonus program, and business registration fees and inspection programs.
During public comment, the inspection fee program was a point of contention for multiple landlords, property owners and apartment association members as they expressed concerns that the inspection program would lead to over-enforcement and punish well-intending owners rather than focusing on more egregious and repeat offenders.
While a number of landowners spoke positively to the council about their property’s up-keeping, numerous residents used the time allotted for comment to express grievances about the conditions of their dwelling leading Mayor Paula Devine to assure the residents that inspectors would be sent out to look over the property.
It is not clear that any of the tenants resided on properties owned by any of those who spoke.
Of the eight points presented the inspection program was the only one not to pass voting for consideration by Council, with Devine stating the program doesn’t help to provide more affordable houses and that there are services available for tenants to report complaints.
JCE policy revisions were presented as more immediate recommendations for currently built apartments. Suggestions included that landlords must offer tenants a one-year lease at initial occupancy as well as an option for a second-year lease with a defined rent schedule. This would allow tenants to anticipate the increase in rent.
Another suggestion was to create a form of incentive for landlords to offer a one-year lease and provide advance notice of any rent increases beyond 60 days. While currently there are incentives to offer a one-year lease, there are none for providing more advanced notice of rent increases.
Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian questioned Lanzafame multiple times regarding more immediate solutions that could be considered for residents who are seeing their rents increase dramatically.
Lanzafame reiterated the suggestion to force landlords to expand notices of rent increases from 30 to 60 days. Gharpetian appeared unsatisfied with that answer, commenting that 90 or 120 days’ notice be considered to allow residents time to relocate or find other accommodations.
Throughout Council debate and discussion, Gharpetian shared the frustration of residents and constituents who have met with him in the past, citing one incident when a tenant had seen their rent increase over 100% within six months.
Councilmember Scott Ochoa acknowledged Gharpetian’s frustration and the frustration of renters and stated that he has heard the complaints himself and that it is time to focus on solutions.
Ochoa and councilmember Laura Friedman expressed vocally a number of times that they would not be considering suggestions of rent control, arguing that it would freeze rents at their current level which is, in some cases, already out of reach for renters.
The approved points and JCE revisions will be discussed in future meetings with stakeholders as the plans move forward to provide more affordable housing.