How to Pay for Affordable Housing


It was the public communication portion of the Glendale City Council meeting that caused the most debate on Tuesday night. For the past few weeks, residents of Glendale who rent apartments in the area have been asking for rent control in the city. They have been testifying to the council the conditions they must deal with on a monthly, and at times daily, basis. Some told stories of rent increases of over 50%, while others shared how they dealt with construction rubble outside their apartment doors.

At last week’s meeting, City Manager Yasmin Beers said the city had been made aware of the issues at one particular complex and had issued a stop work order until they could investigate further.

The debate began when Councilmember Paula Devine told the audience that it had been brought to her attention that some renters felt they were considered “less than” those who own homes. She wanted to assure them that the council, and in particular herself, did not feel that way.

“You are just as important to me as anyone else in the city,” she said.

This started a debate of words versus actions.

“Of course they are appreciated,” said Mayor Zareh Sinanyan. But he reminded the council rent control was what was being asked for.

“I am just bringing that back into focus,” he said.

Councilmember Vrej Agajanian said letting renters know they are equal is not enough. He then suggested that the city should look into using its reserve funds to create affordable housing.

Sinanyan said that discussion could be put on the agenda.

“The city reserves are for natural disasters,” he said.

He then mentioned the sales tax that was voted to be placed on the ballot at last meeting may be used for affordable housing.

The city’s general reserve has an estimated $50 million, according to Beers. The reserves are kept for disasters, unexpected expenses and lawsuits in addition to several other items that may need funding.

“Right now is like a natural disaster,” Agajanian said.

He shared a story of a man he had spoken with concerning rent hikes. He lived in a small apartment with his two children and was paying $1,425 when he got notice the rent was being raised to $2,600.

“How are they going to afford it?” he asked.

There was not a second, so the discussion of using general reserve funding for affordable housing will not be on an upcoming agenda.

Unforeseen needed funds were the subject of Glendale Fire Chief Greg Fish who asked the Council to approve $139,416.06 to reimburse Los Angeles City Fire and U.S. Forest Service. The funds would cover the Glendale portion of the air support used during the La Tuna Canyon Fire that occurred in September 2017.

The total for the air support was $2.3 million; however, Glendale is only being billed for a percentage. The total number of acres burned was 7,200, with 450 acres lying within Glendale, Fish said.

He added the costs for firefighting air support can be up to $9,000 an hour and that the total costs of fighting the La Tuna Canyon Fire was about $12 million.

There was one public comment concerning the payment. The speaker did not want the city to pay Los Angeles because the LAFD had destroyed a bench and trails near Brand Park. Fish explained that although the fire was not near Brand Park the dozers used in the area by LAFD was an approved precaution in case the fire spread.

“I appreciate the speaker’s comments but, in the time of crisis, this was necessary,” said Councilmember Ara Najarian.

The Council voted to approve the payment.