By Brian CHERNICK
With ongoing development and rising rental costs throughout the city, affordable housing continues to be the go-to issue for Glendale City Council.
According to a city staff report, last year more than 60% of local residents were renters with 57% of them being considered cost-burdened where at least a third of their income goes toward rent.
Two common refrains from the public during City Council meetings are concerns about overdevelopment of luxury apartments in central Glendale and rising costs of rent. These are often seen as going hand-in-hand. The Council has acknowledged these concerns, with Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian sympathizing with individuals informing him of their stories of dramatic rent increases, some from $950 to $1,450 in a single increase or as great as 110% over a single year.
Glendale residents being hit with exorbitant rent increases is not something new and the City Council has mulled over various solutions over the years, including implementing numerous affordable housing projects, but have rejected calling for rent control in fear that it would cause more harm than good by preventing landowners from adjusting costs for property maintenance and inflation.
Low-income and elderly residents have had the hardest time dealing with hikes in rent and have been forced to find additional streams of revenue or face being pushed out of the area entirely.
Going as far back as 1988, dozens of senior residents faced rent increases as high as $400 a month, according to a Los Angeles Times article. Then-president of the Glendale Coalition for Emergency Food and Shelter Gregg Roth stated that the cost of housing was the biggest factor in homelessness.
“Particularly in Glendale, we’re going to see an increase because of the skyrocketing costs due to no rent control and increased development,” Roth said.
It would appear to many renters in the city that not much has changed in nearly 30 years.
Councilmember and chair of the Housing Authority Zareh Sinanyan is thought by some to have won his second term in this past election on a campaign to address the housing crisis by bolstering affordable housing projects, something Sinanyan feels is necessarily to avoid rent control making its way to the ballot.
“I predict in the next few years more funding will be allocated toward creation of more affordable housing because in the absence of that the city is looking at potential rent control ballot measures,” Sinanyan said.
The city currently has over 1,300 affordable housing units with nearly all of them being rentals. Approximately half are dedicated to senior residents and about a quarter for low-income families.
The two latest projects, an artists colony called ACE 121 and a veterans village, both of which Sinanyan has had a hand in with the Housing Authority, have a combined 113 units.
Rents for those average around $580 a month for a one-bedroom, $807 for a two-bedroom and $892 for a three-bedroom unit with those prices secured by an agreement held between the city and the landowners. The agreement, or covenant, prevents the landowner from increasing rent, with covenants lasting from 55 to 75 years. After that period the rent could go up to market value at the landowner’s discretion. However, the multi-year process and limited capacity of affordable housing projects does not appear to help those who face sudden and large increases in rent.
California assembly member and former Glendale City Council member, Laura Friedman, illustrated Glendale’s housing problem when she noted 8,000 to 10,000 applications would come in for every affordable housing project the city would open.
While rent control does not guarantee long-term affordability, as can be seen in rent-controlled Los Angeles’ decreasing affordability, it can sometimes serve to reduce anxiety of looming jumps in rent costs.