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Alhambra Housing Forum Raises Awareness on Affordability Crisis

  • Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler and Vice Mayor Ross Maza engage with Spanish-speaking residents at an affordable housing forum on Thursday, May 23 at Alhambra's First Baptist Church. The forum was co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, Grassroots Alhambra and the Alhambra Source. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Attendees listen to a presentation on high housing costs in Alhambra and state legislation designed to provide rent relief and affordable housing to California residents. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • A housing forum attendee sharing her experience. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • About 80 percent of Shu Noma's social security income goes towards her rent, leaving little left over for her other expenses. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Grassroots Alhambra President and Alhambra Source Advisory Board Member Eric Sunada answers audience questions at the affordable housing forum on Thursday night. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Former Alhambra Source intern Virginia Situ leads the discussion at a table of Mandarin-speaking residents at the affordable housing forum on Thursday night. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler listens to residents' experiences with high housing costs at the affordable housing forum on Thursday night. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Vice Mayor Ross Maza engages with Spanish-speaking residents at the affordable housing forum on Thursday night. Photo by Bastian Mendez.

  • Local high school students conduct the affordable housing forum's end-of-event raffle in Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish and English. Photo by Bryan Kim.

Location

Alhambra , CA

The multipurpose room at Alhambra’s First Baptist Church was jammed with about 150 people Thursday night who came to listen and learn about the affordable housing crisis and relate their often difficult experiences in struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

The free forum, sponsored by Asian-Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles, with Grassroots Alhambra and the Alhambra Source serving as co-sponsors, attracted Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler and City Councilmember Ross Maza. Also present were the president of the city’s planning commission Allan Sanchez, and Commissioner Andrea-Lofthouse Quesada. Jonathan Horton, a staff assistant to Rep. Judy Chu, and Henry Lo from Assemblyman Ed Chau’s office were also interested observers. Representatives from the San Gabriel Chapter of Habitat for Humanity were also in attendance.

Around the room, a buffet meal, provided by Grassroots Alhambra, was served and young children found a corner table to work on their drawing skills with colored pencils and paper. Representatives from Grassroots Alhambra and the Alhambra Source had tables at the event to explain to the diverse audience their respective missions.

The evening’s program sought to frame the housing issue from the perspective of affordability and to raise awareness on specific aspects of the broader housing issue, which touches not only Alhambra but the state of California and parts of the nation as well. It also sought to bring people together, many of whom said they were struggling with the cost of housing, to hear each others stories and offer, in some cases, potential solutions.

More than 60 percent of Alhambra’s 86,000 residents are renters, with the median rent in the city reaching $1,286 as of 2017, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from $1,575 to $2,000 per month and the average rent for a two-bedroom unit ranges from $1,775 to $2,325. Rental prices for houses are considerably higher. Alhambra has no rent control ordinance, and the city faces many challenges in building affordable housing.

The evening, organized primarily by Li’i Furumoto, project director for youth and parent leadership development at AAAJ-LA, was divided into several parts. Furumoto served as emcee, thanking all for coming and making sure that everyone who needed translation had access to it; that service was available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Jose Aguayo, an Alhambra resident and member of Grassroots, welcomed the Spanish-speaking audience. He would also facilitate one of the Spanish-language breakout sessions later in the evening. Phoenix Tso, a senior writer at Alhambra Source who has covered the housing story in the Western SGV for many years, spoke of her reporting about residents’ struggles to make ends meet. She spoke about an Op-Ed article in the Source late last year from a community contributor who wrote about an apartment complex developed years ago by a former mayor. His descendants ended up with the complex and recently one of them sold her share to a management company who raised the unit rents considerably, forcing longtime occupants to leave. The other half of the complex still owned by the mayor’s family had no such rent increase. Tso also spoke of the instances of price gouging she’s encountered in her reporting, where monthly fees were raised by at least 50 percent.

Furumoto then introduced two students from Alhambra High School, Sabanan Neuparve and Wuzhi Lou, who narrated a PowerPoint presentation outlining in a very basic and understandable manner various aspects of the housing crisis. Symptoms of the crisis include overcrowding, longer commutes, adult children returning home to live with parents, and many people in the 30-50 age range choosing to leave Southern California for more affordable states.

They also noted that schools suffer because of the crisis. Alhambra’s good schools are a draw to families but those families often can’t afford to stay. They spoke of the heartbreak of students having to leave their friends and homes in Alhambra for more affordable cities to the east. One estimate was that more than 300 students in the Alhambra Unified School District, which also includes Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel, struggle with homelessness. The loss of student enrollment is a major challenge for the Alhambra Unified School District.

The slide presentation also offered details on how to think about what affordable housing actually means in terms of percentage of income and showed that, according to Southern California Association of Governments figures, the city’s median home prices have increased by 230 percent since 2000, while salaries have risen 45 percent.

After the slide show, there was a short film on Meiyi Peng, an Alhambra resident who faced her own housing crisis when her $1,600 a month rent was raised by nearly $1,000 a month forcing her to move to her son’s home. Her human story helped set up the next part of the evening as the audience broke into small discussion groups by preferred language to talk about issues of concern in housing.

Language diversity aside, many of the participants had the same concerns.

In the Cantonese-language group, for instance, participants wanted a set rental price that didn’t fluctuate to meet market rates. Another raised the question of whether renting was a business or a human need, and how to reconcile those points of view.

Aguayo, who works as a data solutions architect for a bank, helped facilitate and translate one of the Spanish language discussion groups.

He said that two things in the group surprised him: “Residents spoke about the amount of stress that housing pressures place on children. One gentleman described how his kids worry whether they will be homeless. He emphasized that this was true, despite the fact that he and his wife each worked two jobs to make ends meet. Parents also worried about being away from home as much as they do and having to leave their children alone.”

Aguayo also noted that “greed and fear permeates the housing market.”

“Many tenants described living in units that were riddled with infestation and poor maintenance, often resulting in out-of-pocket repairs by tenants. From their perspective, tenants don’t have better living conditions because they pay 20 percent, 30 percent or more from one year to the next. Others live under the fear of eviction if they complain.”

On a more hopeful note, Aguayo said he heard several comments from people with a “general interest in understanding what was being done about the housing crisis by community leaders. They had little hope that things would change soon but wanted to know what they could do.”

Aguayo’s wife, Barbara Aguayo, is a bilingual schools community coordinator for the Alhambra Unified School District. She was also a facilitator and translator at the event. She said she enjoyed seeing residents feel comfortable enough to share their experiences and perspectives on the housing crisis and would like to see more events like this sponsored by the city.

Mayor Andrade-Stadler and Council Member Maza were active participants in these break out sessions, listening to the concerns of participants, commenting and often taking notes. Andrade-Stadler worked the room taking part in several break out groups while Maza was very engaged with the Spanish-language session, offering thoughts and taking in the stories being shared.

After the breakout sessions ended, the audience came together for a brief question and answer session that focused mainly on how to get help on housing. That part of the session was moderated by Eric Sunada, the president of Grassroots Alhambra. Many of the questions involved Section 8 housing vouchers as well as inclusionary housing ordinances and anti-rent gouging measures.

Public support and action were urged for two measures in the state Assembly, AB 1482, an anti-rent gouging bill that would establish an upper limit or cap on allowable rent increases working its way through the California Assembly and another Assembly bill, AB 1481, which is designed to curb unfair evictions while still providing landlords the right to evict tenants for lease violations. Both measures have been endorsed by AAAJ of California and the ACLU of California, as well as the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

As the evening was coming to a close, Mayor Andrade-Stadler and Councilmmber Maza came up to address the gathering. Andrade-Stadler noted that the level of personal engagement she encountered that evening was extremely valuable.

“Although housing data is important, it really doesn’t amount to much until you see the faces of people who are really struggling with housing,“ she said, thanking all for coming. “Spending time with all of you is incredible and actually much more impressive.”

Maza thanked everyone for coming out and observed that he thought the five city council members were now “all on the same page in terms of affordable housing and the fact that something has to be done as soon as possible and that this [issue] had to be addressed.”

He invited people to stay engaged and “come to council meetings to share your stories… I can tell you that this is not something that is going to happen overnight,” but the process has started.

There is a housing item listed on the agenda for the next city council meeting, which will occur Tuesday night instead of Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday.

The evening concluded with drawings for some door prizes and to underscore the inclusive nature of the event each winning number was read aloud in five languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Phoenix Tso contributed reporting.

Full disclosure: Eric Sunada is a member of the Alhambra Source advisory board. Advisory board members have no editorial control or access to stories before publication.

Chinese translation by Fiona Situ and Leah Chang.

Alhambra住房论坛会提高了对住房危机的认识

周四晚上,大约有150人聚集在了Alhambra的第一浸信会教堂的多功能厅。他们来到这里了解了经济适用房的危机,并讨论了他们经常遇到有关住房的困难与挣扎。

这个由亚美公义促进中心- 洛杉矶,Alhambra 草根基层会和Alhambra Source (Alhambra 新闻)赞助的免费讨论会,吸引了Alhambra 市长Adele Andrade-Stadler和市议Ross Maza。出席会议的还有该市规划委员会主席Allan Sanchez和总监Andrea-Lofthouse Quesada,众议员Judy Chu的助手Jonathan Horton以及议员Ed Chau办公室的Henry Lo。San Gabriel Chapter of Habitat for Humanity的代表也出席了会议。

大厅的四周布满了由Grassroots Alhambra (Alhambra 草根基金会)提供的自助餐。孩子们聚集在边角桌子,用彩色铅笔来画画。Grassroots Alhambra (Alhambra 草根基金会)和Alhambra Source (Alhambra新闻)的代表在活动中向不同的观众解释了他们各自的任务。。

晚会计划从负担能力的角度描述了住房问题,并提高对更广泛的住房问题认识。这不仅涉及了Alhambra,也涉及了加利福尼亚州和美国其他地区。晚会将人们聚集在一起,许多人分享了他们正在努力解决住房成本的故事,听取彼此的经验,提供可能的解决方案。

根据美国人口普查局2017年美国社区调查的数据,Alhambra的8万6千名居民中有60%以上是租房者。截止2017年该市的租金中位数达到1,286美元。一居室公寓的平均租金是从每月1,575美元到2,000美元不等,两居室单位的平均租金是从1,775美元到2,325美元。房屋租金价格要高得多。Alhambra 没有租金管制条例,导致该城市在建造经济适用房时面临了许多的挑战。

讨论会主要由AAAJ-LA的青年与家长领导发展项目主任Li’i Furumoto组织,并且分为几个部分。Furumoto担任主持,感谢所有人的到来,并确保每个需要翻译的人都被提供了粤语,普通话,越南语和西班牙语的翻译工具。

Jose Aguayo(Alhambra居民和草根基层成员)对讲西班牙语的观众表示欢迎。他还将在晚上晚些时候为其中一个西班牙语分组会议提供便利。Phoenix Tso(Alhambra Source的资深作家)多年来一直报道西部SGV的房屋故事,她谈到了她关于居民努力维持生计的报道。她谈到了一篇专栏文章来自于一名社区撰稿人。这位撰稿人在文中说很多年前,一位前市长开发了一个公寓大楼,他的后代最终买下了这栋楼。最近其中一人将他的份额卖给了一家管理公司,该公司大幅提高了单位租金,迫使长期居住者离开。该市场的另一半仍由市长家族拥有,所以没有这样的租金上涨。 Tso还谈到了她在报告中遇到的哄抬物价的例子,其中每月的费用提高了至少50%。

随后,Furumoto介绍了来自Alhambra高中的两名学生,Sabanan Neuparve和Wuzhi Lou。他们用非常基本好理解的方式概述了整个住房危机,包括过度拥挤,通勤时间较长,成年子女回家与父母住在一起,以及许多30-50岁年龄段的人选择离开南加州寻求更实惠的州。

他们还指出学校也是住房危机的受害者。Alhambra这个好学区吸引了很多家庭。但是这些家庭往往住不起。他们谈到了学生们不得不离开他们在Alhambra的朋友和家园去到东部更便宜的城市。据估计,Alhambra联合学区的300多名学生,该学区包括 Montery Park,Rosemead和 San Gabriel,都在面临着无家可归的问题。失学是Alhambra学区的一项重大挑战。他们的演讲还提供了有关如何考虑经济适用住房在收入百分比方面的实际意义的详细信息,并显示,根据南加州政府协会的数据,该城市的房价中位数自2000年以来增长了230%,而工资只上涨45%。

之后讨论会播放了关于Meiyi Peng(音译:彭美仪)的短视频。她一位面临自己房屋危机的Alhambra居民。当时,她原本每月1600美元的租金被提高近1000美元,迫使她搬到她儿子的家中。她的故事帮助引导了讨论会的下一部分,观众们建立讨论小组并讨论住房问题。

撇开语言多样性不谈,许多参与者有同样的担忧。

在粤语组中,参与者希望有一个固定的租赁价格,而这个价格不会因市场价格而波动。另一个人提的问题是租房是商业需要还是人类需要,以及如何调和这些观点。

Aguayo是一家银行的数据解决方案架构师,他帮助翻译了一个西班牙语讨论组。

他说,小组中的两件事让他感到惊讶:“居民们谈到住房压力给孩子带来的压力。一位先生描述了他的孩子如何担心他们是否会无家可归。他强调说这是真的,尽管他和他的妻子各自为了维持生计做了两份工作以至于不能陪伴孩子,他们仍然有可能会成为无家可归者。”

Aguayo还指出,“贪婪和恐惧渗透到房地产市场。”

“许多租户描述说,他们的居住的单元到处都是虫害以及维护不善。这导致房客总需要自费维修。他们认为房客是没有更好的生活条件的。他们每年支付的租金要上涨20%到30%,甚至更多。他们也不敢抱怨,因为担心被房东赶出去。

Aguayo说,他听到了一些人的评论,他们“对了解社区领导人对住房危机采取的措施有着普遍的兴趣。他们知道事情不会立马得到改善,但他们想知道他们能做些什么。”

Aguayo的妻子Barbara Aguayo是Alhambra联合学区的双语学校社区协调员。她是此次活动的推动和翻译者。她说她很喜欢看到居民愿意充分分享他们住房危机的经验和观点,并希望能看到更多类似这样城市赞助的活动。

市长Andrade-Stadler和理事会成员Maza也积极参与这些分组会议,听取参与者的关注,评论并经常做笔记。Andrade-Stadler 在这个房间里参加了几个分组讨论。Maza非常积极参与西班牙语的讨论,他分享了他的想法和故事。

在分组会议结束后,观众聚集在一起进行简短的问答环节,主要讨论如何获得住房方面的帮助。会议的这一部分由Alhambra 草根基金(Grassroots Alhambra)的总裁Eric Sunada主持。许多问题涉及Section 8 住房券以及包容性住房条例和反租金欺诈措施。

敦促公众支持和采取行动会在州议会采取两项措施,AB 1482,一项反租金欺诈法案,规定了允许租金的上限,并通过加州议会和另一项大会法案,AB 1481,旨在遏制不公平的驱逐行为,同时仍然为房东提供驱逐租户违法行为的权利。这两项措施均得到加利福尼亚州AAAJ和加利福尼亚州ACLU以及西方法律和贫困中心的支持。

当晚会临近尾声时,市长Andrade-Stadler和市议员Maza发表了讲话Andrade-Stadler指出大家的热烈讨论与参与都是非常宝贵的。

“虽然房屋数据非常重要,但直到你看到那些真正在房屋上苦苦挣扎的人的面孔,你才会发现这个问题的重要性,”她说,感谢大家的到来。 “与大家共度时光令人难以置信和令人印象深刻。”

Maza感谢了所有人,并观察到他认为五个市议会成员现在“在经济适用房方面都步调一致,并且“事情必须尽快完成,和这个[问题]必须得到解决。”

他邀请人们继续 “参加理事会会议以分享你的故事……我可以告诉你,这个问题不会一夜即之间解决, 但这个过程已经开始了”。

下一届市议会会议议程中列出了一个住房项目,由于阵亡将士纪念日,此活动将在周二晚上举行。

晚会结束时,为一些门奖抽奖,并强调活动的包容性,每个获奖号码都用五种语言朗读:英语、广东话、普通话、西班牙语和越南语。

Phoenix Tso提供了报道。

完全披露:Eric Sunada是Alhambra Source顾问委员会的成员。咨询委员会成员在出版前没有编辑控制或访问故事。

翻译:Fiona Situ, Leah Chang.

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1 thought on “Alhambra Housing Forum Raises Awareness on Affordability Crisis”

  1. This was an eye-opening forum. The residents who came were hard-working, compassionate people who are doing all they can to survive. They need relief now. They are the lifeblood of our community, yet they are being priced out of their homes and neighborhoods. I hope the city of Alhambra and the region will so more to address the extreme lack of affordable housing in the San Gabriel Valley. Thank you to the organizations who organized this event.

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