Why We Can’t Turn Affordable Housing Into Expendable Housing
Historically, landlords of multi-unit housing rental properties have been required to include 15% of “affordable” units for low and very low-income tenants. That is changing, in part due to a 2009 landmark court decision in Los Angeles (Palmer/Sixth Street Properties, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles). The court found that forcing landlords to provide low-income units without subsidies violated the Costa-Hawkins Act, which allows landlords to raise rents after tenants move out, effectively eliminating rent control.
Why is a lack of Affordable Housing important?
The jobless rate in Sacramento rose slightly last week to 11.4%.*
About 93,000 jobless workers were recently notified that their final round of benefits would end early. Another 100,000 workers who likely would have been eligible for the final 20-week extension of benefits also won’t get help.*
The hourly wage that a household working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, needs to make to afford the Fair Market Rent on a two-bedroom apartment at the traditional 30% of income in California is $26 an hour. $54,000 and change.
California is second only to Washington, DC.
The average minimum wage worker earns $16,640.
The maximum annual unemployment benefit is $23,400.
The average income for someone living on SSI is $12,804.
Public assistance pays $3,000 annually.
Affordable Housing has been one way that people with low to extremely low income—including, but not exclusively seniors and persons with disabilities—have been able to stretch those annual dollars to be able to include things such as food, medicine, and utilities in their budgets.
Even with the benefit of Affordable Housing, more than half of California’s low-income households pay more than 50% for housing.
On May 2, 2012, Tyrone Buckley, Housing and Environmental Justice Policy Director for the Sacramento Housing Alliance, hosted a discussion at SHA’s 21st Street office in an effort to raise awareness and support around what they consider the crisis in Affordable Housing in the City of Sacramento.
In the room were representatives from Volunteers of America, Cottage Housing, Sacramento Self-Help Housing, Sacramento Mutual Housing, and other agencies whose clients are in some way affected by the changes.
The meeting included an overview of the current state of housing, what’s in the pipeline—nothing—and a discussion of what related issues the agencies felt needed to be addressed.
Primarily it was a call to action. An acknowledgement that it would require team work, and in many cases a willingness to “suit up and show up” at rallies, hearing or council meetings if they hoped to have an impact.
When I spoke with Beckley later, he admitted, he was preaching to the choir. To affect change, the community at large will need to get involved.
“Individuals and organizations can tell their elected officials to ensure that public policy preserves a place for everyone to live, through comments to the housing element, showing up to public hearings or community public participation opportunities, or speaking directly to elected leadership.”
He suggested contacting representatives through letters and email.
“We also encourage those concerned to organize an impacted community to come speak for themselves.”
If you subscribe to the Broken Window theory, you may believe that when you speak up for your community, you are helping yourself, and vice versa.
In an economy where unemployment continues to rise and benefits are running out, it may not be realistic to expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps until they can afford boots.
Broken windows, broken spirits; it is for each community to decide.
Excerpted from “Broken Windows”
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars. (James Q. Wilson, George L. Kelling, Atlantic Monthly, March 1982)
For more information got to
*Sacramento Business Journal, Daily Update, May 3, 2012