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Affordable Housing

Calif Housing Crisis — Coming Only in Fits and Starts

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by Dan Walters

CALIFORNIA (CalMatters) — The latest developments in California’s housing crisis are, as usual, mixed. In September, according to the Legislature’s budget analyst, permits for 10,580 new housing units were issued, a 13% increase from August and a 40% boost from September 2018.

However, overall housing starts are still running below 2018’s level, meaning the net gain for the year, including housing that’s burned or been demolished, will likely be well below 100,000 units, or about half of what the state says we need to build each year.

There was better news in an announcement from Apple, Inc., that it is committing $2.5 billion to housing construction and mortgage assistance in the San Francisco Bay Area. That would more than double the two $1 billion housing investments previously announced by Silicon Valley behemoths Alphabet, parent company of Google, and Facebook.

It calls to mind the observation attributed to the late Sen. Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

Yes, $4.5 billion is real money in anyone’s language, as is the $6 billion state housing bond that voters approved last year.

But as large as these amounts appear, they pale when placed in context.

Housing production in California is running at least 80,000 units a year below what the state says is necessary to keep up with population growth and make a dent in a very large backlog that has sent housing costs skyrocketing.

The state also calculates that building one unit of so-called “affordable” housing — available to low- and moderate-income families — costs about $350,000 statewide, and twice that much in the Bay Area.

So even using the average cost, increasing production by 80,000 units a year would require another $30 billion investment every year, not just the one-time injections from state bonds or high-tech employers.

Moreover, even if developers (and their bankers) are willing to put that kind of money into housing, they must clear several other hurdles, such as having land zoned, specific projects approved and, finally, recruiting enough carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other workers to build.

All of those hurdles are becoming higher, particularly those controlled by local governments whose constituents tend to oppose anything that will bring more traffic congestion and other downside factors to their neighborhoods.

The not-in-my-backyard sentiment is powerful. It explains, for instance, why cities successfully opposed legislation, Senate Bill 50, that would have overridden their much-cherished control over land use issues for some kinds of housing.

Gov. Gavin Newsom had called on the high-tech community to help solve the housing crisis its explosive prosperity helped create and, therefore, was quoted in Apple’s announcement as praising the company’s commitment.

“The sky-high cost of housing — both for homeowners and renters — is the defining quality-of-life concern for millions of families across this state, one that can only be fixed by building more housing,” Newsom said in the announcement.

True enough, and the high-tech industry’s commitment will help, but only a tiny bit at the margins — and assuming it can overcome other impediments to construction. SB 50 would have been a serious step toward ramping up construction, albeit only one of many needed, but Newsom was noticeably quiet when the state Senate killed the bill without even a vote, and he signed a rent control bill that sends the wrong signal to housing developers.

During his campaign for governor, Newsom set a goal of building 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, or 500,000 a year. Housing production is a fraction of that level and is, if anything, declining.

This article is produced as part of WeHo Daily’s partnership with CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.


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Affordable Housing

Senior Tenant Sues Santa Monica Landlord to Stay in Her Home

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photo by Benjamin Massello

SANTA MONICA (Santa Monica Daily Press)– A 72-year-old woman with disabilities who has lived in the same Santa Monica studio for 38 years has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against her landlords.

In the suit filed Monday, St. James v. Bills, tenant Zandra St. James charges that her landlord violated state law by refusing to accept her housing choice voucher to offset her monthly rent. As a result, St. James faces eviction.

St. James’ apartment is rent-controlled, but with annual incremental increases. The rent has risen to the point that it now demands more than 90 percent of her monthly Social Security disability check.

She was awarded a housing choice voucher in 2019 and immediately sought to use the subsidy to help pay her […]

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Affordable Housing

Apply for Affordable Senior Housing at LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus

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LOS ANGELES — The City of West Hollywood is getting the word out that applications for new affordable senior housing will be accepted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Services program for the forthcoming McCadden Campus senior housing site, which will offer 98 new, affordable, low-income units designed for people who are ages 62 and over.

The LGBT Center’s McCadden Campus senior housing is anticipated to be completed in fall 2020 and will feature studios and one-bedroom rentals.

There will be fully accessible units for people with mobility hearing, and/or vision disabilities. Future residents will be welcomed into the LA LGBT Center’s wide range of community programming specializing in HIV+ wellness, gender identity, and LGBT social and cultural support.

Other services will include meals, case management, employment training, and more.

The new senior housing site will be located adjacent to the Center’s Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center at the Anita May Rosenstein Campus on N. Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood, just east of the City of West Hollywood, and is a project of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Thomas Safran & Associates.

The City of West Hollywood contributed $2.1 million to the project from the City’s local housing trust fund. Applications will be accepted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center until Wednesday, March 4.

There will be three opportunities for community members to submit applications in person in the City of West Hollywood:

  1. Monday, March 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard; and
  2. Wednesday, March 4 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.

The City of West Hollywood has a decades-long commitment to providing social services, health education, and information to community members in-need and to improve quality of life. The City’s Social Services Division and Strategic Initiatives Division budget more than $5 million annually to support programs that impact thousands of people in West Hollywood through local nonprofit organizations.

The City’s Aging in Place/Aging in Community program was launched in 2016 to improve the quality of life and well-being of older adults in the City. For additional information, please visit weho.org/aging.

The City of West Hollywood’s Rent Stabilization & Housing Division promotes equity and inclusion through access to housing, and by working to change the underlying systems leading to and perpetuating disparities.

The Division provides a breadth of information and services to both tenants and property owners, including housing counseling and information materials. The City facilitates the development of new housing with an affordable component, the rehabilitation of existing housing for lasting affordability, and the development of mixed-use projects that include affordable housing units. For additional information, please visit weho.org/housing.

For more information about programs and services for seniors in the City of West Hollywood, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Social Services Division at (323) 848-6510 or visit www.weho.org/wehocares.

For more information about McCadden Campus senior housing, please contact the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Services program by calling (323) 860-5830 or visit http://mccaddencampus.

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Affordable Housing

CA Lawmakers Say Limiting Development Fees Combats Housing Crisis

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Photo by Sacha T'Sas

SACRAMENTO (AP) — In their latest bid to combat California’s affordable housing crisis, state lawmakers on Monday announced a package of bills to limit development fees that can add tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home.

However, local governments depend heavily on the fees, which typically are used to pay for schools, roads and parks. Lawmakers said they were discussing those needs but have not yet decided how the fees might be replaced.

The fees are “vital to local government’s ability to pay for the infrastructure that residents living in new developments need,” Chris Lee, legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties said in a statement. He said counties are glad to […]

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