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Community Forum to Highlight Immigrants Squeezed by Housing Costs in Alhambra

Some residents of Evans Apartments were hit by steep rent increases. Photo by Bud Taylor.

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Meiyi Peng originally rented a three-bedroom house in Alhambra for $1,600 a month. Last year, however, her landlord raised her rent by $1,000 a month.

As a caregiver to senior citizens whose salary is publicly funded, Peng could not afford that rent increase. She moved into her oldest son’s house in Alhambra while he moved in with his mother-in-law. After paying the mortgage every month, there’s little income left over for her.

Peng and other members of Alhambra’s Asian and Latino immigrant community will be sharing their experiences with housing costs at an affordable housing forum, organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. The forum will take place Thursday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m at Alhambra’s First Baptist Church, and will feature small-group discussion about affordable housing. Translation and materials will be available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish. This event is free and co-sponsored by the Alhambra Source and Grassroots Alhambra.

The median rent here in Alhambra is $1,286 according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The average rate for a one-bedroom unit ranges from $1,575 per month to $2,000 per month and the average rate for a two-bedroom unit is $1,775 per month to $2,325 per month, according to Leona Rollins, director of counseling at the Housing Rights Center, which contracts with the City of Alhambra to advise tenants on their housing issues.

Rollins clarified that the above ranges only apply for apartment complexes. The monthly rental rates for two-bedroom and three-bedroom single family homes can range from $2,500 per month to close to $4,000 per month, depending on the area of Alhambra and the available amenities.

Many Californians have called for rent control, where cities limit the percentage by which a landlord can increase the rent of his tenants. Alhambra has no rent control ordinance in place, making market-rate increases legal. State law compels landlords to give 30 days notice if they are increasing rent by less than 10 percent, and 60 days notice if they are increasing rent by more than 10 percent.

Rent control laws have proven controversial in California, with voters defeating a ballot measure last year that would have repealed the 1995 Costa Hawkins, which limits the scope of rent control measures in California cities. The California state legislature is currently considering AB 1482, introduced by Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), to limit rent increases in cities who do not already have rent control ordinances.

Out of a population of 85,168 people, almost 60 percent of Alhambra’s population are renters. Around 56 percent of the Alhambra renters put 30 percent or more of their household towards rent, according to the American Community Survey. This measure is a common way to quantify housing affordability in an area, as discussed by the Joint Center for Housing Studies from Harvard University.

Even some of those who pay below-market rent are having a hard time keeping up housing costs. Thanh Vuong is an immigrant from Vietnam, who has lived in Alhambra for 21 years. will also share her story at the forum. She pays $1,250 a month for a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment, as well as $200 a month in utilities.

The rent seems in line with the average rent listed in the 2017 census figures but is still difficult for Vuong to cover. She takes care of her father full-time, who lives with her and has prostate cancer. She also pays rent for her daughter, who goes to UC Berkeley. All of this adds to Vuong’s expenses.

This is why more government action is needed, Vuong said. “We need the government to control the rent,” she said, adding that the city should provide jobs and training to people like her, so they can earn the money needed to stay in Alhambra and contribute to the city. “If we don’t have money, we cannot support our city and our state.”

The Alhambra Source covered the experiences of Cynthia Salguero and her neighbors in dealing with sudden rent increases, and published an Op-Ed on the experiences of residents living in the historic Evans Apartments, one half of which was sold and then went through astronomical rent hikes.

California is one of the most expensive states to rent or buy a house. This is due in large part to a chronic housing shortage in the state. California should be building 200,000 new housing units a year to keep up with demand, according to CALMatters, but the actual amount of housing built falls far short of that.

There are several local and regional programs that help renters and homeowners with housing costs. Los Angeles County administers a Section 8 voucher program. With these vouchers, the federal government covers a portion of the tenant’s rent, while the tenant pays a subsidized rate. Currently, 557 Alhambra residents who rent homes using federal Section 8 vouchers, said Alhambra Director of Community Development Marc Castagnola and Alhambra Housing Manager Holly Chenh.

Alhambra receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist homeowners with purchasing or rehabilitating homes at affordable rates. For fiscal year 2019, the city will receive $978,673 in Community Development Block Grant funds, which must go towards programs that benefit low and moderate-income residents, part of which will help six households with rehabilitation. Homeowners who qualify will receive a zero percent interest loan from the city, and will not have to pay it back if they stay in their home for a set number of years. The city has rehabilitated 228 homes since 1993.

Alhambra will also receive $529,955 from HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships program. The city will part of this funding to help one first-time homebuyers of a certain income level with their down payment for purchasing a home in Alhambra. They can apply for the city’s program of the same name and if approved, will gain financial assistance on their down payment. The city has helped 36 first-time homebuyers since 1986.

Cities can determine who qualifies for affordable housing based on the area median income calculated by the state, which for fiscal year 2019 is $73,100 for a four-person household in Los Angeles County. Income thresholds are calculated as a percentage of the AMI, and of consist extremely low-income households, very low-income households, low-income households and moderate-income levels.

Alhambra built 440 housing units that were set aside for very low-income and low-income residents to rent or own by the end of 2014, as well as 90 units for moderate-income households. Many were developed specifically for senior citizens, including the 110-unit Main Street Plaza complex, and the 94-unit Wysong Plaza. Many of these were funded through the city’s redevelopment agency, which used eminent domain to acquire land for affordable housing and economic development projects, and could offer financial incentives for these projects. Since California’s redevelopment agencies were dissolved by court order in 2012, cities like Alhambra have less resources to offer for projects like these.

The main challenge of building affordable housing is getting a return on investment, when the developer has to make cost considerations on factors like land, building materials and labor. “If you can’t get your return, then the developer, without subsidies, it’s very hard to make it financially feasible,” Castagnola said.

Castagnola also discussed the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a number of housing units that a city needs to provide the capacity for, mainly through their zoning requirements, and a plan known as the Housing Element. For the 2013-2021 RHNA cycle, Alhambra is supposed to zone for 604-low income units. The city currently counts 93 housing units towards their low-income RHNA allocation for this current cycle, including 55 rehabilitated units.

Only three California cities have met their RHNA targets, including Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Westminster. Earlier this year, the state of California sued Huntington Beach, saying that the city has not zoned for enough affordable housing units.

To increase the city’s affordable housing stock, the Alhambra City Council has expressed interest in looking at an inclusionary housing ordinance, which would require a developer to set aside units in their residential project at affordable rates, or opt out by paying into a city’s affordable housing fund.

The issue came up most prominently when the Council heard an appeal against a Planning Commission decision to grant a permit to build the Monterey Bay Square mixed-use development, which would include 62 residential condominiums sold at market rate. Grassroots Alhambra President Eric Sunada* filed this appeal on the grounds none of the condos were set aside as affordable housing units.

Since then, The City Council has been vocal about exploring an inclusionary housing ordinance for Alhambra, and asked the city to research Pasadena’s inclusionary housing ordinance in particular. The City Council designated this as a priority during their strategic planning meeting on April 18.

Alhambra Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler expressed interest in hearing from residents in order to get a “clearer picture” of what they’re experiencing with housing costs. She’s curious about inclusionary housing and protections that would address high rents. “Periodically, I hear, ‘We had to leave because we couldn’t afford the rent,’ ” she said.

*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.

被房租“拖垮”的Alhambra移民:我们的房租为什么那么贵?

彭美仪原先在Alhambra市以每月1,600美元的价格租了一套三居室的房子。然而,去年她的房东将租金提高到了每月2600美元,一年的涨幅将近到63%。

作为一名老年护理,这样的租金涨幅使得彭美仪喘不过气来。她不得不搬到她已经成年的儿子房子里。更令她有压力的是,在每个月支付完抵押贷款之后,她的收入几乎一分不剩。

彭美仪与其他Alhambra亚裔和拉丁裔居民将在一个经济适用房论坛上分享他们租房故事。该论坛是由“亚美公益促进中心洛杉矶”组织,并且在5月23日星期四下午6:30在Alhrambra的第一浸信会举行。论坛进行了有关于经济适用房租金的小组讨论。现场提供粤语,普通话,越南语和西班牙语的翻译。Alhambra Source和Grassroots Alhambra共同赞助此活动。

2017年美国人口普查局的美国社区调查显示阿罕布拉的租金中位数为1,286美元。住房权利中心咨询主任利昂娜罗林斯说,一卧室的平均价格从每月1,575美元到每月2,000美元不等,两居室单元的平均价格是每月1,775美元到每月2,325美元。

罗林斯澄清到上述范围仅适用于公寓大楼。两卧室和三卧室单户住宅的月租金价格从每月2,500美元到接近每月4,000美元不等,具体取决于Alhambra的面积和可用的设施。

州法规定如果房东的租金增加不到10%,房东需要提前30天通知;如果房租增加10%以上,则提前60天通知。许多加州人呼吁控制租金,要求城市采取措施并且限制房东可以增加租金的百分比。然而Alhambra并没有这样的租金管制条例。这在Alhambra不管房租增加到什么程度,都是合法的。

事实证明,加州的租金控制法存在争议。去年选民否决了一项投票法案,该法案将废除1995年的Costa Hawkins法案并且限制了加州城市的租金控制措施范围。加利福尼亚州立法机关目前正在考虑由大会成员David Chiu(D-San Francisco)提出的AB 1482法案,以限制尚未制定租金管制条例的城市的租金增长。在Alhambra 超过85万人口中,近60%是租房者。根据美国社区调查,其中超过半数的租房在租房这一项目上要花费掉将近30%的家庭支出。正如哈佛大学住房研究联合中心所讨论的那样,这一衡量标准是量化一个地区住房负担能力的常用方法。

甚至那些住低端出租房的人也很难控制租房成本。Thanh Vuong是越南移民,他在阿罕布拉居住了21年。她在论坛上分享她的故事说她每月支付1,250美元购买两间卧室,一间浴室公寓,以及每月200美元的公用设施。

她的这些花费看似与2017年人口普查数据中列出的平均租金差不多,但对于Vuong仍难以承担。。。她全职在家照顾与她患有前列腺癌的父亲,还得为去加州大学伯克利分校的女儿支付租金。所有这些支出都压在Vuong的肩头。

“这就是为什么需要更多的政府行动,”Vuong说。 “我们需要政府控制租金,”她补充说。“城市应该为像她这样的人提供工作和培训,这样他们就可以赚到留在阿罕布拉所需的资金并为城市做出贡献。 如果我们没有钱,我们就无法支持我们的城市和国家。”

Alhambra Source曾经报道过Cynthia Salguero及其它的社区居民处理突然增加租金的故事;发表了一篇关于埃文斯公寓的居民的经历。那栋公寓当时其中一半被出售然后了租金上涨到了天文数字。

加州是租房或买房最昂贵的州之一,这在很大程度上是由于该州长期的住房短缺。根据CALMatters的数据,加利福尼亚州应该每年建造200,000套新住房以满足需求,但实际建造的住房数量远远不足。

当然政府也推行了有几项地方和区域计划来帮助租房者和房主支付住房费用,例如“洛杉矶县Section 8 优惠券计划。”这些优惠券可以让联邦政府承担了租户租金的一部分,而房客可以支付一个补贴率。 Alhambra社区发展部主任Marc Castagnola和Alhambra房屋部经理Holly Chenh表示,目前有557名Alhambra居民使用Section 8分代金券租房。

与此同时Alhambra也从美国住房和城市发展部获得联邦资金,以帮助房主以合理的价格购买或修复房屋。在2019年,该市将获得978,673美元的社区发展拨款这项必须用于有利于低收入和中等收入居民的计划上。其中一部分将帮助六个家庭进行修复。符合条件的房主将从该市获得零利率贷款,如果他们在家里住到一定的年限,就不必偿还贷款。Alhambra自1993年以来已修复了228所房屋。

住房和城市发展部的家庭投资合作计划也会给Alhambra市529,955美元。部分资金将用于帮助某个收入水平的首次购房者支付他们在阿罕布拉买房子的首付。如果批准,将获得财政援助的首期付款。自1986年以来,该市帮助36位首次购房者。

根据州政府计算的地区收入中位数,城市可以自行确认谁有资格获得经济适用住房。在2019年,洛杉矶县的一个四口之家平均收入为73,100美元。这个收入门槛是按照AMI的百分比计算的,包括极低收入家庭,极低收入家庭,低收入家庭和中等收入水平。

Alhambra建造了440套住房给在2014年底为低收入和极低收入居民提供的,以及另外为中等收入家庭提供90套住房。这些住房中很多是专门为老年人开发的,包括110-单元的主街广场和94-单元的Wysong Plaza。城市重建局为此提供资金,该局利用征用土地为经济适用房和经济发展项目购置土地,并可以为这些项目提供财政奖励。由于加州的重建机构在2012年被法院命令解散,像阿罕布拉这样的城市为类似的项目提供的资源的已经少之又少。

建设经济适用房的主要挑战是获得投资回报,此时开发商必须考虑土地、建筑材料和劳动力等因素的成本。卡斯塔格诺拉说:“如果你得不到回报,那么开发商在没有补贴的情况下,很难在经济上使其可行。”

卡斯塔格诺拉还讨论了区域住房需求分配,一个城市需要提供的一些住房单元的容量,主要通过其分区要求,以及一个被称为住房要素的计划,RHNA。从2013到2021年,Alhambra预计将分配604个低收入住房。在这一阶段已有93个住房单元计入本周期分配,其中包括55个改造单元。

在加州仅有三个城市达到了他们的RHNA目标,包括比佛利山庄,西好莱坞和威斯敏斯特。今年早些时候,加利福尼亚州起诉亨廷顿海滩,说这个城市没有划分足够的经济适用房。

为了增加城市的经济适用住房存量,阿罕布拉市议会已表示有兴趣研究包容性住房条例,这将要求开发商以可承受的价格在其住宅项目中预留空间,或者通过支付城市的经济适用住房选择退出基金。

当安理会听取计划委员会决定授予建造Monterey Park 综合用途开发许可证的上诉时,这个问题最突出,其中包括以市场价格出售的62套住宅公寓。基层阿罕布拉总统埃里克·桑达达*提出这一呼吁,理由是没有一个公寓作为负担得起的住房单位被搁置。

从那时起,市议会一直在为Alhambra探讨包容性住房条例,并要求该市特别研究Pasadena的包容性住房条例。市议会在4月18日的战略规划会议上将此作为优先事项。

Alhambra市长雅仕代娜(Adele Andrade-Stadler) 表示有兴趣听取居民的意见,以便更清楚地了解他们在住房成本方面遇到的情况。她对包容性住房和可以解决高租金问题的保护措施感到好奇。 “我经常听到,’我们不得不离开,因为我们承担不起租金,’”她说道。

*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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